(Caltha palustris) Crowfoot family'

Flowers - Bright, shining yellow, 1 to 1 1/2 in. across, a few in

terminal and axillary groups. No petals; usually 5 (often more)

oval, petal-like sepals; stamens numerous; many pistils (carpels)

without styles. Stem: Stout, smooth, hollow, branching, 1 to 2

ft. high. Leaves: Mostly from root, rounded, broad, and

heart-shaped at base, or kidney-shaped, upper ones almost

sessile, lower ones on fleshy petioles.

Preferred Habitat - Springy ground, low meadows, swamps, river

banks, ditches.

Flowering Season - April-June.

Distribution - Carolina to Iowa, the Rocky Mountains, and very

far north.

Not a true marigold, and even less a cowslip, it is by these

names that this flower, which looks most like a buttercup, will

continue to be called, in spite of the protests of scientific

classifiers. Doubtless the first of these folk-names refers to

its use in church festivals during the Middle Ages as one of the

blossoms devoted to the Virgin Mary.

"And winking Mary-buds begin

To ope their golden eyes,"

sing the musicians in "Cymbeline." Whoever has seen the watery

Avon meadows in April, yellow and twinkling with marsh marigolds

when "the lark at heaven's gate sings," appreciates why the

commentators incline to identify Shakespeare's Mary-buds with the

Caltha of these and our own marshes.

Not for poet's rhapsodies, but for the more welcome hum of small

bees and flies intent on breakfasting do these flowers open in

the morning sunshine. Nectar secreted on the sides of each of the

many carpels invites a conscientious bee all around the center,

on which she should alight to truly benefit her entertainer.

Honey bees may be seen sucking only enough nectar to aid them in

storing pollen; bumblebees feasting for their own benefit, not

their descendants'; little mining bees and quantities of flies

also, although not many species are represented among the

visitors, owing to the flower's early blooming season. Always

conspicuous among the throng are the brilliant Syrphidae flies -

gorgeous little creatures which show a fondness for blossoms as

gaily colored as their own lustrous bodies. Indeed, these are the

principal pollinators.

Some country people who boil the young plants declare these

"greens" are as good as spinach. What sacrilege to reduce crisp,

glossy, beautiful leaves like these to a slimy mess in a pot! The

tender buds, often used in white sauce as a substitute for

capers, probably do not give it the same piquancy where piquancy

is surely most needed - on boiled mutton, said to be Queen

Victoria's favorite dish. Hawked about the streets in tight

bunches, the marsh-marigold blossoms - with half their yellow

sepals already dropped - and the fragrant, pearly-pink arbutus

are the most familiar spring wild flowers seen in Eastern cities.

MAGENTA TO PINK FLOWERS MARSH ST.JOHN'SWORT facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail