Caltha palustris L.
yellow marsh-marigold
Ranunculaceae (Buttercup family)

Introduction to Vascular Plants


© RĂ©al Sarrazin     (Photo ID #26658)


E-Flora BC Static Map

Distribution of Caltha palustris
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This annual wetland plant is found across Canada and major parts of the United States, but is absent from most of the southern US (USDA 2011). Although it is reported from Alaska and the Yukon, it is primarily (with one exception) reported in BC from the southwestern mainland region of the province where it is found in bogs and shallow, brackish marshes in the lowland zone. In Flora North America (2011), it is described as occurring in "marshes, fens, ditches, wet woods and swamps, thriving best in open or only partly shaded sites". Phenotypically, this is a very plastic (variable) species (Flora North America 2011).

In British Columbia, we recognize two varieties of this species:

1 C. palustris var. palustris --introduced from eastern North America

2. C. palustris var. radicans--native to British Columbia

In his rare plants of the Fraser Valley article, Lomer (2011) says of var radicans "This attractive, early-flowering marsh plant is very local along the tidal shores of the Fraser River in bare muddy sites (UBC: Lomer 91-32). Known from approximately 26 sites along the north and south arms of the Fraser in Richmond. Elsewhere in BC few sites are known, and always in estuaries or tidal influenced waters. The rivershores which it inhabits are generally under threat from shoreline dyking and development. Marsh marigold is a popular garden plant and it has been observed as an escape from cultivation. These plants are virtually identical to our native populations, but usually the escaped plants are more floriferous and compact and grow away from tidal marshes, usually in parks and urban sites where they look somewhat out of place compared to the native vegetation." Extracted from Botanical Electronic News #432, January 2011, with permission.

A detailed discussion and description of the species is provided in Flora North America. Flora North America does not recognize the varieties of this species.

Species Information

Perennial herb from a short, thick stem-base with fibrous roots; stems erect or ascending, or with age reclining and rooting at nodes, 10-60 cm tall/long; plants smooth.
Basal leaves circular to egg-, kidney-, or heart-shaped, 2-13 cm long, 2-19 cm wide, margins entire to finely round-toothed, long-stalked; stem leaves 2 or more, smaller, short-stalked or unstalked.
Inflorescence a 1- to 7-flowered cyme terminating the stem or branches, the flowers 1-4.5 cm wide; flower stalks leafy; petals absent; sepals 5 or 6, deep yellow or orange, broadly egg-shaped or elliptic, 10-25 mm long; stamens many.
Follicles, 5 to 15 (25), spreading, unstalked, ellipsoid, 8-15 mm long, 3-4.5 mm wide; beaks straight or curved, 0.5-2 mm long; seeds brown, elliptic, 1.5-2.5 mm long, surface wrinkled.

SourceThe Illustrated Flora of British Columbia

USDA Species Characteristics

Flower Colour:
Blooming Period:
Mid Spring
Fruit/Seed characteristics:
Colour: Brown
Present over the Summer
Source:  The USDA


Ecological Framework for Caltha palustris

The table below shows the species-specific information calculated from
original data (BEC database) provided by the BC Ministry of Forests and Range.
(Updated August, 2013)

Site Information
Value / Class




Elevation (metres)
1230 0 2500
Slope Gradient (%)
3 0 20

Aspect (degrees)
[0 - N; 90 - E; 180 - S; 270 - W]

4 20 300
Soil Moisture Regime (SMR)
[0 - very xeric; 4 - mesic;
8 - hydric]
5 2 7
Modal Nutrient Regime
# of field plots
 species was recorded in:
Modal BEC Zone Class

All BEC Zones (# of stations/zone) species was recorded in

CWH(2), ESSF(3), IDF(2), MH(1)

Habitat and Range

Bogs and shallow, brackish marshes in the lowland zone; rare along the coast; N to AK, YT and NT, E to NF and S to WV, TN, NC, NE and OR.

SourceThe Illustrated Flora of British Columbia