Daily Flower Candy: Caltha palustris ssp. polypetala

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Caltha palustris ssp. polypetala:  giant marsh marigold, kingcup

Forsythia, crocus, narcissus, mahonia, acacia, kerria: have you ever pondered why so many early flowering plants have predominantly yellow flowers? It’s because the colour yellow, whether it be primrose, golden, saffron or lemon, is highly effective in attracting pollinating insects, especially in the low light levels we experience at the beginning and end of each year. (Birds’ vision is also particularly sensitive to yellow, which may be why the sparrows nip all the flower buds off my Rosa banksiae “Lutea”). The number of flying insects is particularly low during the colder months, so early flowering plants have developed boldly-coloured, weather-resistant flowers to increase their chances of attracting insects.

Caltha palustris spp. polypetala, London, April 2016

Lighting up the corner of the pond in our London garden is Caltha palustris spp. polypetala, a large-flowered variation on the common marsh marigold. Every year it increases in size, blessing us with tens of large, glossy, reflective flowers. Understandably bees adore the single blooms, their golden stamens lagged in pollen. I love them too, set against the dark garden wall, viewed from the kitchen worktop where I write this blog.

Despite appearances the giant marsh marigold is not native to the UK, hailing from the mountainous regions of Turkey. Our plant grows in semi-shade in shallow water, but would be equally happy at the waters’ edge. It is one of the first plants to bloom each spring, alongside the magnolia, kerria and Narcissus “Jack Snipe”. If cut back hard after flowering there will be more flowers in autumn. Provided one has a good patch of continually damp soil Caltha palustris spp. polypetala will grow without intervention, spreading to create luscious mounds of emerald-green foliage studded with flowers. Pure gold.

Caltha palustris spp. polypetala, London, April 2016


Categories: Crafts, Daily Flower Candy, Flowers, Foliage, Plants

Posted by The Frustrated Gardener

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8 comments On "Daily Flower Candy: Caltha palustris ssp. polypetala"

  1. I could be on the board of directors for the marigold family of flowers fan club. I love them. They are simple little flowers that once they start blooming here go right on through until the first good frost. You certainly get your bang for your buck with them. I have half a seed tray planted because I love to put them around my veggie garden and out by the mail box. I love your lovely yellow flowers and the very pretty green leaves. Nice pick, Dan. 🙂

  2. I had, actually, wondered why there are so many yellow flowers at this time of year, so your post has filled in a gap in my knowledge, thanks! And, of course, they are beautiful plants you’ve shown us here.

  3. It’s a good question, isn’t it? Yellow draws the human eye too, so powerfully that some humans feel overwhelmed by it. I like the golden Caltha very much, sort of like a celandine on steroids. If I had a suitable patch of marshy ground I’d be tempted ….

  4. Penny dropped. I hadn’t really thought about the reason yellow plays such a strong part in early flowering! Thank you 😀

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