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Marsh Marigold A Beauty with Dangers

As winter fades away and nature awakens, one can’t help but marvel at the colors and delicate blooms of our surroundings. Among the many spring flowers is the Marsh Marigold (Caltha palustris). With its vibrant yellow petals and lush green leaves, this lovely perennial is a true symbol of the changing seasons that can enchant any nature lover, but it is crucial to understand that this alluring beauty harbors a secret: it contains poisonous compounds.

marsh marigold flowers have a distinct cup shape with five to nine overlapping petals The glossy, dark green leaves of the Marsh Marigold are rounded or heart-shaped

Common Names:

The Marsh Marigold goes by several common names across different regions. In addition to Marsh Marigold, it is often people refer to it as Kingcup due to the resemblance of its cup-shaped flowers to a royal chalice. Furthermore, Sometimes naturalists call it Cowslip of the Marsh, although it is distinct from the true Cowslip (Primula veris). These various names reflect the plant’s widespread popularity and recognition.


Marsh Marigold is known for its bright, golden-yellow flowers that bloom in early spring, typically between March and May, depending on the region. The flowers have a distinct cup shape with five to nine overlapping petals. They can reach a diameter of around 2 to 5 centimeters (0.8 to 2 inches). The glossy, dark green leaves of the Marsh Marigold are rounded or heart-shaped and are borne on long stalks emerging from the base of the plant. This perennial herb grows to a height of about 30 to 90 centimeters (12 to 35 inches).


Marsh Marigold is native to Europe, Asia, and North America. In Europe, it can be found throughout the continent, from the British Isles to Scandinavia and down to the Mediterranean region. In Asia, its range extends from Siberia to Japan. In North America, Marsh Marigold is distributed across Canada and the northern United States, particularly in wetland areas.


Just like Cattails, Marsh Marigold thrives in wet and marshy habitats, displaying a preference for shallow water bodies such as ponds, ditches, swamps, and damp meadows. It is commonly found near streams and rivers, where it benefits from the constant moisture. The plant can tolerate partial shade but generally prefers full sun. Its adaptability to various soil types, including clay, loam, and sandy soils, contributes to its wide distribution.

Marsh Marigold thrives in wet and marshy habitats

Poisonous Components:

The Marsh Marigold contains toxic compounds, primarily protoanemonin, which is a potent irritant. Protoanemonin is released when the plant is damaged or crushed, making it potentially harmful to humans and animals alike. While the entire plant contains varying levels of protoanemonin, the highest concentrations are typically found in the fresh leaves and stems. The roots and seeds also contain trace amounts of this toxic compound, albeit in smaller quantities.

Symptoms of Poisoning:

If the Marsh Marigold is ingested or comes into contact with the skin or eyes, it can lead to various symptoms of poisoning. These symptoms include blistering, skin irritation, redness, swelling, and burning sensations. Ingestion of the plant can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and in severe cases, even respiratory distress. It is important to note that the intensity of the symptoms can vary depending on the individual and the amount of exposure to the toxic compounds.

Marsh Marigold Conservation Status:

The conservation status of the Marsh Marigold is a matter of concern. While it is not globally threatened, this species faces certain challenges, as does the broadleaf arrowhead, due to habitat loss and degradation. Wetland destruction, pollution, and invasive species pose significant threats to its survival. Additionally, over-harvesting for ornamental purposes can further impact the population of this plant in the wild. It is crucial to raise awareness about the importance of conserving wetland habitats and protecting the Marsh Marigold along with other flora and fauna that depend on these ecosystems.

Notes of Interest:

  1. Historical Uses: Despite its toxicity, Marsh Marigold has been utilized in traditional medicine for centuries. It was employed for treating various ailments such as skin conditions, rheumatism, and even as a diuretic.

  2. Symbolic Meaning: Marsh Marigold is often associated with rebirth and renewal. Its bright yellow flowers herald the arrival of spring, symbolizing hope, and new beginnings.

  3. Ecological Role: This plant plays a vital role in wetland ecosystems. Its flowers provide a valuable source of nectar for pollinators, while its foliage offers shelter for small aquatic organisms.

Marsh Marigold (Caltha palustris) is a captivating wetland plant that should be admired from a safe distance due to its poisonous nature. While it possesses a certain allure, caution should be exercised when encountering this plant to avoid any potential harm. Understanding its toxicity and taking steps towards preserving its habitat will ensure the continued existence of this species for future generations to appreciate.

Marsh Marigold Look-Alikes:

  1. Lesser Celandine (Ranunculus ficaria): One of the most common plants mistaken for marsh marigold is the lesser celandine. Both plants belong to the same family, Ranunculaceae, and share a similar yellow flower color. However, there are notable differences in their leaves and habitats. While marsh marigold thrives in wetland areas and has round, kidney-shaped leaves, lesser celandine prefers drier habitats and displays heart-shaped leaves. According to the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS), the two plants can sometimes be found growing alongside each other, contributing to the confusion (RHS).

  2. Kingcup (Caltha palustris var. radicans): Another plant closely related to the marsh marigold is the kingcup, which is a subspecies of Caltha palustris. Kingcup resembles marsh marigold so closely that the two are often considered synonymous. The primary difference lies in the habitat: while marsh marigold is found in marshes and wetlands, kingcup typically inhabits damp meadows and woodland areas. However, due to regional variations, the terms marsh marigold and kingcup are sometimes used interchangeably, leading to further confusion (Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh).

  3. Globe Flower (Trollius spp.): Globe flowers, belonging to the Trollius genus, are often mistaken for marsh marigolds due to their similar appearance. Both plants share the characteristic yellow, buttercup-like flowers, and grow in similar habitats. However, globe flowers can be distinguished by their more rounded petals and taller stature compared to marsh marigold. The Royal Horticultural Society notes that globe flowers are commonly found in mountainous regions and prefer cool, moist conditions (RHS).

  4. Cowslip (Primula veris): Cowslips, while not as like marsh marigolds as the previously mentioned plants, can still occasionally be confused with them. Both species exhibit vibrant yellow flowers and bloom in early spring. However, cowslips have a more delicate appearance, with smaller flowers growing in clusters atop slender stems. Moreover, cowslips prefer drier habitats, often gracing meadows, and grasslands. In contrast, marsh marigolds favor wet and marshy areas (Wildlife Trusts).


  1. Missouri Botanical Garden: Caltha palustris. Available at: https://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/PlantFinder/PlantFinderDetails.aspx?kempercode=c177

  2. The Wildlife Trusts: Marsh-marigold.
  3. USDA Plants Database: Caltha palustris. Available at: https://plants.usda.gov/core/profile?symbol=CAPA8

  4. Royal Horticultural Society: Caltha palustris. Available at: https://www.rhs.org.uk/plants

  5. New Zealand Plant Conservation Network. (n.d.). Caltha palustris. Retrieved from https://www.nzpcn.org.nz/flora/species/caltha-palustris/

  6. Plants For A Future. (n.d.). Caltha palustris – L. Retrieved from https://pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Caltha+palustris

  7. Pouliot, M., & Chamberland, C. (2012). Poison

Yellow Water Lily – Nymphaeaceae

Yellow Water Lily – Nymphaeaceae

Yellow Water Lily

Common Names:The phrase "water lily" is used to describe aquatic plants

Water Lily, Brandy-bottle, pond lily, bullhead lily, spatterdock, yellow cowlily, water lily

My son built a small pond in the backyard several years ago. Along with the necessary koi we bought the flora we added included a plant native to the entire USA – a yellow pond lily. In researching this plant I found out its history and the many ways this wild food is used and useful.


As its name implies, the yellow pond lily is an aquatic plant. It is a long lived plant, a perennial, which grows from spongy rhizomes anchored into the bottom of a body of water. The floating leaves are thick, somewhat heart-shaped and have up to an 18” spread. The stalks connecting leaves and flowers to rhizomes can grow six feet long.

Flowers of the water lily emerge on separate stem stalks. They are cup-shaped, yellow-green, with small scale-like petals. Flowers bloom from May to October. Spent flowers give way to seed heads that burst upon ripening, broadcasting their seeds over the water surface.


Yellow pond-lily occurs in slow-moving streams, ponds, and lakes. The plant pictured here was in Pine Lake, NY, a shallow Adirondack lake. The plant grows in wet, poor sandy soils and grows best in 1’ to 5’ of water in full sun to part shade. It is however tolerant of shade and deep water. There is a boggy area fed by the Normans Kill in Albany, NY that gets choked up with these wild plants by mid-summer every year. This is where the lilies I have come from.


The yellow pond lily can basically be found from Alaska south to California East to Labrador and south to Florida.


The roots (rhizomes) are rich in starch and can be harvested any time of the year and either roasted or boiled. I understand that the root can be dried and ground into a flour substitute. The seeds can also be gathered in late summer into the fall and roasted and shelled. They can be eaten as is, boiled like you would rice or ground into a flour/meal.

Yellow Pond Lilies provides great cover for wildlife, especially fish, aquatic insects, snakes, turtles, frogs, crayfish, salamanders, and other water creatures.Notes of Interest:

Yellow Pond Lilies provides great cover for wildlife, including all types of fish, insects (aquatic, terrestrial and flying), amphibians and reptiles. It is also a food source for beaver, muskrats and waterfowl.

The plant’s use dates back to pre-colonial times. Native Americans used the starchy rootstocks as a boiled or roasted vegetable. Additionally, they harvested the seed for grinding into flour.

Although water lily seeds are produced and deposited on the water surface, the yellow pond-lily reproduces more readily by spreading rhizomes – I can attest to this. The lily in the koi pond has a root system around 4’ long with several spots that stems and flowers grow from. This native aquatic plant can readily take over a body of water – please do not help it spread. It is very difficult to eradicate

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Check out how to cook wild foods


Strawberry Plant Facts and Identification


Strawberry – Fragaria Virginiana

Common Names:Strawberry - Strawberries are in full fruit production in their second year.

Woodland strawberry; California strawberry, Virginia Strawberry


The first time I came across strawberries in the wild, and knew it, I was 18 years old hiking with a friend in the coastal mountains of Oregon. He was the one that identified them. It was one of those times when it was all about camping, fishing for cutthroat trout and eating wild foods – with a lot of it being strawberries along with a smattering of blackberries, thimbleberries and a bit of wild greens. I found it strangely fulfilling camping in a tent for a week really living off the land.

The good news about strawberries is that they are easy to identify and widely distributed. The bad news is that the strawberry fruit can have a limited growing season. This is a perennial plant that spreads by seed, short rhizomes (a thick underground horizontal stem that produces roots and has shoots that develop into new plants) and leafless stolon (a long stem or shoot that arises from the central rosette of a plant and droops to the ground).

Strawberry - Growing strawberries is fun and easy because they'll thrive in many regions.Identification:

If you have ever seen a strawberry plant in Home Depot, Lowes or your local garden center then you know what a wild strawberry plant looks like – only the wild strawberry is smaller. The toothed leaves are thin and basal compound in groups of 3 with a petiole generally 1” – 4”. They are sparsely hairy below. Leaf color is generally a bluish-green. The strawberry flower has 5 white petals with numerous pistils and 20-35 stamens. The flower is typically .25” – .5” wide. The fruit is white then turns red when ripe with the seeds on the outside. The plant is generally 2” – 6” tall.


Strawberries grow where there’s lots of sun: in meadows, fields, on moist ground, along the edge of woods, and on hillsides. You can find them across the U.S. and Canada except in desert/arid areas.


The fruit ripens sometime between June and August. I have even come across strawberry fruit in the wild in late September. Obviously the fruit is edible and if you can pick enough, it can be canned, frozen or dried. The fruit of strawberries are nutritious and are full of essential vitamins and minerals.

The leaves and stems are edible and actually taste good when fresh and young. They are loaded with vitamin C – an important vitamin used to prevent scurvy. One way to enjoy the benefits of the leaves is make a tea with a handful of freshly picked leaves. For winter use you can dry out the leaves and store in a jar.

Notes of interest:The Strawberry has a very high vitamin C content and is versatile as a dessert food.

Native Americans used strawberries as a food source. The strawberry is an important food source for many wild animals from insects to deer and birds.

Growing your own strawberry patch: Strawberry plants are easy to grow if you want free fresh fruit. I like to plant my strawberries in long rows.

They should be planted in full sun in a light, loose soil, about 10” apart in rows 2’ apart. You should plant in an area that has plenty of room for your patch to spread out. Lightly fertilize the plants during the growing season. After 2 – 3 years your plants will spread – mostly from “runners”. Once a runner plant has established its own roots and is healthy I like to move it to avoid overcrowding. Keep the runners pruned back until after you pick the strawberry fruit. This allows the plant to focus on fruit production thus increasing yield. As they age plants will lose “vigor” so you should pull plants over three years old to maintain your patch’s fruit production. Younger plants are more vigorous and produce more berries.

The biggest problems I have in the Northeast are rabbits (they will eat the plant right down to the ground) and gray squirrels (they will sneak in like the rats they are and eat the fruit just as it is ripening). I find the best way to protect plants and fruit is to cover the row with deer netting. It will let in the bees for pollination but keep out rabbits and squirrels.

Plantain – Plantago


Common names: ribwort plantain, English plantain, buckhorn plantain, narrowleaf plantain, ribleaf and lamb’s tongue, dooryard plantain, Plantain: The Miracle Plant You Can Find in Your Yardcommon plantain, Englishman’s foot, White Man’s Foot

It is just one of those damned weeds that you fight with every year – that is of course if you care about your lawn. Plantain, a perennial, is a very common “weed” that can be found just about anywhere. Just like so many other plants, Colonists brought it over from Europe with them. So, it is in my opinion an invasive species. Native Americans gave plantain two of its “common names” – Englishman’s foot and White Man’s Foot.


Leaves spiral on a very short, weakly woody stem. Leaves are broadly lance shaped to egg shaped, hairless or sparsely short haired. Roughly 2″ to 7″ long, leaves have five to seven prominent parallel veins from the base. Roots are fibrous and shallow. Broadleaf plantain can be distinguished from buckhorn plantain, Plantago lanceolata, by its broader leaf and longer flower head spikes.
The leafless flower stalks grow in summer into fall. They will reach approximately 6″ to 18″ tall. As the picture illustrates, the flower stalks grow out of the center of the plant. The flower stalks bear densely packed greenish white flowers each of which will form a seedpod containing 10 to 18 seeds.


Plantain grows in varied habitats. They can grow in moist soil, shade or full sun, poor soil in between sidewalk cracks – take your pick.


As the map demonstrates, plantain grows throughout Canada and the Coninental U.S.


The very young leaves can be added to salads, or cooked as greens. The immature flower stalks may be eaten raw or cooked. The seeds have a nutty flavor and may be parched and added to a variety of foods or ground into flour.

Notes of Interest:

Plantain is very high in beta carotene (A) and calcium. It also provides ascorbic acid (C).

The plant provides food for butterfly caterpillars, rabbits, deer, and grouse. A wide variety of birds eat the seeds.

According to WebMD: Fibers from broccoli and plantain plants may block a key stage in the development of Crohn’s disease…read more


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Jerusalem artichoke – Helianthus Tuberosus

Jerusalem artichoke

Common Names: sunroot, sunchoke, earth apple or topinambour, Canadian potato, sunflower root, wild sunflowerJerusalem artichoke

Driving around in upstate New York in late summer you can spot Jerusalem artichoke growing just off the road. Take a walk near old farms and just off the path you can spot small plots of these native plants growing. This edible plant is actually a species of sunflower native to eastern North America – however due to its food value (and probably its flower) it has been introduced worldwide. Just another example of man bringing a new plant to an area to become an “invasive species”. The root system of this wild food is fibrous with thin cord-like rhizomes that can grow as long as 50 inches. Usually apparent at the tips of rhizomes are whitish to pinkish tubers that are irregular in size and shape and resemble a slender potato with knots.


The Jerusalem artichoke is a tall perennial plant. It can grow up to 10’ in height. Its stems are strong upright in growth. They have “hairs” along the stem. The leaves are opposite or in whorls of three on the bottom and alternately arranged near the top. The top of the leaves are covered with short hairs and are 4 to 10 inches long and 1 1/2 to 5 inches wide broadest at the base and tapering at the tip. All leaves have toothed margins. The flowers are bright yellow as can be seen in the picture. The flower head is a rounded central disc approximately 1 ½” to 2” wide which has approximately 10 – 20 – 1 ½” to 2 ½” flowers rays attached. Each plant will have several flowers on small stems.


You can find Jerusalem artichokes in damp or rich thickets, waste areas, old fields, along roadsides and even in peoples gardens – either as a known vegetable or just a nice yellow flower.


You can find clusters of these wild flowers growing from southern Saskatchewan south into Kansas and eastward into Quebec down to Georgia. Frankly since many people have attempted to grow jerusalem artichoke as a food source, you can find this plant growing where ever conditions are right – again “invasive”


The tuber is the edible part of this plant. If you wait until after a frost the inulin in the tubers will start turning to sugar thus making it sweeter. You can prepare the tuber just as you would a potato – roast, bake, boil, eat it raw, dry and grind into a flour. It is extremely versatile.

“Jerusalem artichokes get their sweetness from a unique sugar called inulin, which the body metabolizes much more slowly than it does other sugars. This makes the veggie a preferred food for diabetics, and for anyone who wants to avoid eating simple sugars and starches. Jerusalem artichokes are rich in iron, potassium and a range of B vitamins.” 2

Notes of Interest:

Jerusalem artichokes were cultivated by the Native Americans, in fact Samuel de Champlain found domestically grown plants at Cape Cod in 1605.

Truly a plant of many uses, the jerusalem artichoke can be grown for: human consumption, alcohol production, fructose production and livestock feed.

“Dehydrated and ground tubers can be stored for long periods without protein and sugar deterioration. Tubers can be prepared in ways similar to potatoes. In addition, they can be eaten raw, or made into flour, or pickled.” 1

A 25-square-foot planting can produce more than 100 pounds of harvested tubers. 2
The sugars from one acre of Jerusalem artichoke can produce 500 gallons of alcohol, which is about double the amount produced by either corn or sugarbeet. 3

1. Alternative Field Crops Manual – University of Wisconsin
2. Mother Earth News
3. Ohio State University – Ohio Perennial and Biennial Weed Guide


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Staghorn Sumac – Rhus Typhina

Staghorn Sumac

staghorn sumac

Driving around during September in New York you will eventually come across a group of small trees growing in dense stands. The leaves will be a deep red and large conical red hairy fruits called drupes may be at the end of branches. This is the common Staghorn Sumac which is a deciduous shrub to small tree. It grows quite aggressively. Because staghorn sumac can grow by its roots (rhizomes), and once established it can be a pain to remove.


Staghorn Sumac grows 10’ – 35’ tall. As can be seen in the picture, the leaves are alternate & compound growing approximately 24” long with 10 – 32 serrate leaflets. Each leaf grows to 12” long. The leaf stalks and the stems are densely covered in rust-colored hairs. Mature trunks are smooth and hairless. Interestingly, only female plants produce flowers and berries. The red berries grow at the end of branches. The plant flowers from May to July and fruit, the drupes, ripen from June to September. As can be seen in the pictures, they grow in upright bunches. Each cluster of drupes may contain 100 to 700 seeds


Staghorn sumac grows in gardens, lawns, the edges of forests, and wasteland. It can grow under a wide array of conditions, but is most often found in open areas which are not already established by other trees.

staghorn sumac branches can have tiny hairsLocation:

Staghorn sumac is found throughout the eastern half of the United States and Canada from western Ontario, south to Oklahoma into the Gulf Coast States and eastward to all the Atlantic States and eastern Canada.


The fruit of sumacs can be collected, soaked and washed in cold water, strained, sweetened and made into a lemonade-like drink.

Notes of Interest:

Staghorn sumac spreads by seeds, and by its roots, rhizomes, to form “stands”.

The staghorn sumac derives its name from the countless tiny hairs covering its branches and resembling the tines of a deer’s antler when in velvet.

All parts of the staghorn sumac, except the roots, can be used as a natural dye.

Native Americans used the berries from staghorn sumac to make a drink.

The berries and bark are an important source of food for birds (upland games birds as well as song birds) and small mammals.

Staghorn sumac can form with either male or female plants.