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March Flora Spotlight:
Marsh Marigold

Marsh Marigold
Caltha palustris 

With all the snow we have had the last two winters, marsh marigolds are a welcoming first sign of spring here in the mountains. Upon examining its scientific name Caltha from the old Greek and later Latin means marigold or cup and palustris of marshes, it is no surprise this early spring beauty is in the buttercup ranunculaceae family. The flowers of this showy native perennial resemble large buttercups rather than marigolds. The leaves are heart shaped, shiny and clumping by nature. This plant likes an acid soil and sun to part shade.

Propagation by seed is easy and can produce a great groundcover if in a constant wet site. Do not let the seeds dry out, plant as soon as they are ripe. From seed it takes about three years to bloom. Dividing is also a way to increase your numbers of this lovely little beauty. 

At home on the edge of ponds or along stream banks, marsh marigolds require little care other than protection from drying winter and early spring winds.  A small backyard pond is the perfect place for this plant. It attracts beneficial insects, amphibians, butterflies and birds. Deer usually leave this plant alone.

Traditionally the plant was used to treat many ailments. A root tea was used as an expectorant or to induce sweating. A leaf tea was used as a laxative. A warning; all parts of the plant may cause irritation and blistering skin. 

A few years ago this plant popped up in my yard. I am not sure how the seeds got here but I have generous gardening friends who give me extras from their yard all the time. I am usually surprised when things just appear and always anticipate the new gardening season.

This month starts the parade of spring ephemerals here at the Botanical Gardens. The Crayton Trail is exploding with our famous Appalachian natives for the next few months. Donít miss the best show in town!

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