Crow’s Nest: Marsh marigold in bloom

April 16, 2018

By Daniel Barringer, Preserve Manager.

Photo: Daniel Barringer

Spring is unfolding before us now, a little late but all the more worth it for that. On sunny days the bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) has started blooming, and a few of the spring beauties (Claytonia virginica) are out now, just a fraction of those that will be blooming in a few more days. And Dutchman’s breeches (Dicentra cucullaria) has gone from entirely invisible to pop! very much present, though it may take a few more days for full bloom.

What is in full bloom right now is marsh marigold, Caltha palustris, found in just one wetland at Crows’ Nest. Though some people might mistake this for the highly invasive lesser celandine (Ficaria verna) this native plant is much better behaved. Marsh marigold grows in patchy clumps mainly in standing water of an ephemeral wetland that will dry up in summer, by which time it will have gone dormant. Though lesser celandine is also a spring ephemeral plant it spreads by tubers and creates dense carpets and excludes all other spring ephemerals. We have discovered a few lesser celandine plants here and have been actively removing it as a case of “early detection—rapid response.” Lesser celandine also has 7 – 12 petals (actually tepals) whereas marsh marigold typically has five (see below):

Photo: Daniel Barringer

I find this marsh marigold a challenging plant to photograph. Digital cameras have some difficulty capturing its yellows and greens accurately, and on sunny days the yellow blows out. On cloudy days, however, depth of field is limited due to the lower light. I wore waders on this rainy day so I could kneel in the water, but I didn’t submerge a tripod here, which I suppose would be the best way to gain exposure time for the best image. Nonetheless it’s a beautiful plant that I love to see each spring.

Photo: Daniel Barringer