Caltha palustris (Marsh Marigold)

Plant Info
Also known as: Cowslips
Genus:Caltha
Family:Ranunculaceae (Buttercup)
Life cycle:perennial
Origin:native
Habitat:part shade, sun; wet; swamps, seeps, wet ditches, springs, along shores, wet woods
Bloom season:April - May
Plant height:8 to 24 inches
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: OBL MW: OBL NCNE: OBL
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

Pick an image for a larger view. See the glossary for icon descriptions.

Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 5-petals

[photo of flowers] 2 to 5 flowers on stout naked stalks at the ends of branching stems, usually rising a bit above the leaves. Flowers are bright yellow, 1 to 1½ inches across with 5 to 9 (usually 5) rounded petal-like sepals with distinct veins radiating from the base. In the center is a ring of numerous yellow stamens.

Leaves: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf attachment: basal Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] Leaves are mostly basal, mostly round to kidney shaped and deeply heart-shaped at the base, up to 4 inches long, on stalks 2 to 6 inches long. Leaf edges may be toothless but are more often scalloped. The few stem leaves are alternately attached, usually smaller than the basal leaves and less deeply cleft at the base, becoming stalkless as they ascend the stem. Stems are hairless, hollow and much branched. Plants tend to grow in clumps.

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod

[photo of fruit] Fruit is a curved capsule called a “follicle”, about 3/8 inch long, initially green and erect, spreading out as they mature, drying to light greenish brown and eventually splitting open to release the numerous seeds.

Notes:

One of my favorite flowers. My mother was born and raised on a small chicken farm in Rolling Forks Township just south of Starbuck in Pope County. One of the earliest plants I was taught to identify, she said she and her sisters, always wanting to provide flowers for their mother on Mother's Day—even while always warned to stay out of the swamps (Valda was a very stern woman!)—this is what they brought home every year. It was all there was and they were always scolded for it!

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken at Long Lake Regional Park, Ramsey County, and at Pine Bend SNA, Dakota County. Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Dakota County.

Comments

Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Debra M.
on: 2009-03-22 17:49:06

Back in the sixties, we used to look for the marsh marigold, we called them cowslips, just after the snow had begun to melt. It was a quest that we went on every spring to see who would spot one first. We lived in Isanti County on rural route 3

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2009-03-23 12:01:38

We did the same when I was a kid, except our search was for trilliums. :-)

Posted by: Wes G
on: 2009-04-30 19:41:29

We have two growing in our backyard down by the Mississippi river. We spotted them about two weeks ago. One is very large, about two feet across, and the other is about six inches across. We live in Big Lake Township in Sherburne County.

Posted by: Scott K
on: 2009-05-04 09:32:01

We were working a trail through the back of our property and my wife noticed them first. There are dozens of these plants flowering - we're spotting them all over (along with dozens of fiddleheads). We didn't know what they were, but I found them on this site! Very Cool! We are in far Northeast Anoka County.

Posted by: Paul F.
on: 2009-05-07 20:23:28

Saw a nice patch of these in full bloom today. I was in Dodge Nature Center, West St.Paul.

Posted by: Betty M
on: 2009-06-14 19:34:11

I saw alot of these blooming this weekend along the Arrowhead Trail in the far NE corner of the state. I'd love to get some of these established along the roadcut through my property up there.

Posted by: Rochelle - Beltrami County, Bemidji MN
on: 2010-05-17 11:35:58

Lovely bunches are scattered though out the marsh areas near the Boat landing end of Birchmont Dr NE. They are currently in full bloom.

Posted by: Mark - Oakdale Nature Preserve, Oakdale MN
on: 2010-06-19 17:01:17

Scattered throughout the watery areas of the big swamp in the Oakdale Nature Preserve, May 2010.

Posted by: Sharon - Grand Portage State Park
on: 2010-07-25 13:08:56

We saw these in May on the trail to the High Falls in Grand Portage State Park. I am so pleased and excited to find this site. We live full time in a motorhome. We always check out the wildflowers wherever we are. How great to be to identify what we have seen and photographed!

Posted by: Amy - Cannon Falls, MN
on: 2010-09-09 17:42:46

I grew up in northern St. Louis County and loved seeing these flowers cover the entire forest floor every spring. The smell as you passed by was heavenly.

Posted by: david - Bloomington
on: 2011-02-09 15:26:13

I have several of these lovely plants in my pond.they are so beautiful but only bloom for a short time,however the leaves are quite large and nice in themselves.bloom very early,sometimes even though the ground is still frozen

Posted by: Aaron - Red Lake Falls
on: 2011-05-08 21:40:30

Saw two or three bright yellow clumps in the ditch almost floating. Hwy 32 south of Red Lake Falls

Posted by: Bre - Duluth
on: 2011-05-11 02:17:41

My roommate and I were on a walk, and we found them near some standing water on the UMD campus. Lots of them!

Posted by: Alan - Warroad
on: 2011-05-19 13:36:42

Found some in my front yard in the ditch: http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10150259481256337&set=a.10150259480891337.363084.703206336&type=1&theater

Posted by: Gena - Palisade, MN - Long Lake Conservation Center
on: 2011-05-24 23:32:13

Saw several in bloom near the bog.

Posted by: Shelly - Edina
on: 2012-04-21 12:27:51

I spotted this plant today at Bredesen Park on the edge of a marsh.

Posted by: Vickie - Crosslake
on: 2012-04-24 21:01:17

Saw these blooming in the wetland , just a few today, hope for more in the usually large patch.

Posted by: PK - Hermantown
on: 2013-06-14 17:27:10

I have many of these on my property here in Hermantown (next to Duluth) and there are other properties in the area with many Marsh Marigolds as well.

Posted by: Jonathan - Bredesen Park, Edina
on: 2014-05-11 15:25:42

Sunday May 11 (Mothers day) 2014 A number of specimens in bloom in Bredesen Park, Edina, on the edges of the marsh, along the innermost (unpaved) trail. Some practically in the water, others further upslope.

Posted by: Brett - Nerstrand State Park
on: 2014-05-11 22:14:22

Only ones I saw blooming were right down by the main waterfall...

Posted by: Jason - Sibley County
on: 2014-05-17 13:43:07

There must be almost two acres of marsh marigolds blooming now at the USFWS Jessenland Unit. They just burned this unit a few weeks back and it has done wonders for the vigor of the marigolds and other plants in the area. The fire exposed tussocks coupled with the profusion of yellow blooms is quite a sight.

Posted by: Candace - Winsor Township, Clearwater County
on: 2014-07-27 19:18:49

My sisters and I loved to pick this flower and I still do if I get the chance. They grew wonderfully in the swampy part of our cattle pasture(Winsor Township, Clearwater County). I've always wondered what their "real" name was, but to us they will always be "swamp flowers". :)

Posted by: Ben - Walcott Twp. ,Rice Co.
on: 2015-04-22 12:55:00

We have a marsh of 3 acres and it is covered with Marsh Marigolds. They have not started to really bloom yet as of April 22nd. Love the bright color when they really POP.

Posted by: John - Todd County
on: 2015-05-13 13:28:43

These beautiful yellow flowers are brightening the willow swamps off many gravel roads out here.

Posted by: Travis B - Brooklyn Center
on: 2015-12-18 19:58:44

This fall I found a Marsh Marigold plant blooming on November 9th! See post here: http://palmerlakepark.blogspot.com/2015/11/magical-marigold.html

Posted by: Pat
on: 2016-08-21 16:35:56

Marsh Marigolds - mine have their feet in water now, and the leaves have disappeared. But in the more dry beds I've been pulling pointed-heart-shaped leaf short plants with a nub at the base of the leaf stalk (below surface). I've not seen the marigolds to begin this far away. So now being so scattered, could they be violets - which I really do Not Want. Heart shape, but more pointed with very serrated edges - not scalloped, but pointy notches. I think they will remain as individual plants about 5"tall and wide. The little white bulb at the base of the leaf clump is distinctive. Help. White Bear Lake, MN

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2016-08-21 18:10:39

Pat, if you'd like help with an ID post a picture on our facebook page

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