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Caltha palustris
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Ranunculales
Family: Ranunculaceae
Genus: Caltha
Species: C. palustris
Binomial name
Caltha palustris

Trollius paluster Krause

Caltha palustris growing beside a garden pond in England. The rounded leaves of Caltha palustris var. alba can be seen at top right; this plant had already finished flowering when the photograph was taken in late April.
Caltha palustris pollination by a syrphid fly Sphegina montana.

Caltha palustris commonly known as Kingcup or Marsh Marigold belongs to the Ranunculaceae (buttercup family). It is native to temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere (Europe including Iceland and Arctic Russia, temperate and Arctic Asia, and North America). It grows in wet, boggy places, such as marshes, fens, ditches and wet woods. It becomes most luxuriant in partial shade, but is rare on peat. In the UK, it is probably one of the most ancient British native plants, surviving the glaciations and flourishing after the last retreat of the ice, in a landscape inundated with glacial meltwaters.

The plant is a herbaceous perennial growing to 80 cm tall. The leaves are rounded to kidney-shaped, 3-20 cm across, with a bluntly serrated margin and a thick, waxy texture. Stems are hollow. The flowers are yellow, 2-5 cm diameter, with 4-9 (mostly 5) petaloid sepals and many yellow stamens; they are borne in early spring to late summer. The flowers are visited by a great variety of insects for pollen and for the nectar secreted from small depressions, one on each side of each carpel. Carpels form into green sac-like follicles to 1 cm long, each opening to release several seeds. It flowers early April and May and is very valuable to insects at this time as they provide nectar and pollen to them.

Caltha palustris is a highly polymorphic species, showing continuous and independent variation in many features. Forms in the UK may be divided into two subspecies: Caltha palustris subsp. palustris, and Caltha palustris subsp. minor.

It is sometimes considered a weed in clayey garden soils, where every piece of its root will survive and spread. In warm free-draining soils, it simply dies away.

As is the case with many members of the Ranunculaceae, all parts of the plant can be irritant or poisonous. Skin rashes and dermatitis have been reported from excessive handling of the plant.

Other names and etymology

In the UK, Caltha palustris is known by a variety of common names, varying by geographical region. These include Marsh Marigold and Kingcup (the two most frequently used common names), Mayflower, May Blobs, Mollyblobs, Pollyblobs, Horse Blob, Water Blobs, Water Bubbles, Gollins and the Publican. The common name of marigold refers to its use in churches in medieval times at Easter time as a tribute to the Virgin Mary, as in Mary gold. The specific name palustris, from Latin "of a marsh", indicates its common habitat.

Richard Mabey, in his magisterial Flora Britannica, describes Caltha palustris thus:

"Marsh-marigolds are in decline as agricultural land continues to be drained, but they are still the most three-dimensional of plants, their fleshy leaves and shiny petals impervious to wind and snow, and standing in sharp relief against the tousled brown of frostbitten grasses. Most of the plant's surviving local names - water-blobs, molly-blobs, water-bubbles - reflect this solidity, especially the splendid, rotund 'the publican' from Lancashire."

Caltha palustris flowers

In North America Caltha palustris is sometimes known as cowslip. However, cowslip more often refers to Primula veris, the original plant to go by that name.[1][2][3] Both are herbaceous plants with yellow flowers, but Primula veris is much smaller.

Caltha palustris is a plant commonly mentioned in literature, including Shakespeare:

Winking Marybuds begin
To open their golden eyes (Cymbeline, ii. 3).

Kingcup Cottage by Racey Helps is a children's book which features the plant.

In Latvia Caltha palustris is also known as Gundega which is also used as a girls name which symbolizes fire. The word Gundega is made from 2 words - uguns (fire) and dega (burned). This refers to the burning reaction that some people experience from contact with Caltha sap.

Subspecies, varieties and cultivars

Caltha palustris var. himalensis in Kullu District of Himachal Pradesh, India.
Caltha palustris var. alba

The 2006-2007 edition of the RHS (Royal Horticultural Society) Plant Finder, a British publication which lists over 70,000 plants available in nurseries in the UK, lists the following:

  • Caltha palustris (awarded the RHS's Award of Garden Merit)
  • Caltha palustris var. alba
  • Caltha palustris var. barthei
  • Caltha palustris 'Flore Pleno' (a double-flowered cultivar, awarded the RHS's Award of Garden Merit)
  • Caltha palustris var. himalensis
  • Caltha palustris 'Marilyn'
  • Caltha palustris 'Multiplex' (double flowered)
  • Caltha palustris var. palustris
  • Caltha palustris var. palustris 'Plena' (double flowered)
  • Caltha palustris subsp. polypetala
  • Caltha palustris var. radicans
  • Caltha palustris 'Semiplena' (double flowered)
  • Caltha palustris Trotter's form
  • Caltha palustris 'Yellow Giant'


  1. ^ "cowslip". Webster's 1828 Dictionary.  
  2. ^ "cowslip". The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. 2000.  
  3. ^ "cowslip". Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary.  



Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From Wikispecies

Caltha palustris var. palustris


Classification System: APG II (down to family level)

Main Page
Cladus: Eukaryota
Regnum: Plantae
Cladus: Angiospermae
Cladus: Eudicots
Ordo: Unassigned Eudicots
Ordo: Ranunculales
Familia: Ranunculaceae
Subfamilia: Ranunculoideae
Tribus: Caltheae
Genus: Caltha
Species: Caltha palustris
Subspecies: C. p. subsp.  araneosa - C. p. subsp. palustris - C. p. subsp. polypetala - C. p. subsp. radicans - C. p. subsp.  renifolia - C. p. subsp.  sibirica - C. p. subsp. violacea
Varietas: C. p. var.  enkoso - C. p. var.  himalaica - C. p. var.  himalensis - C. p. var.  nipponica - C. p. var. palustris - C. p. var.  pygmaea - C. p. var.  umbrosa


Caltha palustris L., Sp. Pl. 1: 558. 1753.


  • Schuettpelz, E. and Hoot., S. B. 2004. Phylogeny and biogeography of Caltha (Ranunculaceae) based on chloroplast and nuclear DNA sequences. American Journal of Botany 91: 247-253.
Wikimedia Commons For more multimedia, look at Caltha palustris on Wikimedia Commons.

Vernacular names

Česky: Blatouch bahenní
Dansk: Eng-Kabbeleje
Deutsch: Sumpfdotterblume
English: Marsh Marigold
Français: Populage des marais
Lietuvių: Pelkinė puriena
Magyar: Mocsári gólyahír
Nederlands: Gewone dotterbloem
日本語: リュウキンカ
‪Norsk (bokmål)‬: Bekkeblom
‪Norsk (nynorsk)‬: Bekkeblom
Polski: Knieć błotna
Svenska: Kabbleka
Türkçe: Bataklık nergisi
Українська: Калюжниця болотна


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