The nature of things
THE extravagant, buttercup flowers of marsh-marigold seem to be the essence of golden sunshine, many of them collared by large, round or heart-shaped leaves, all of which give this plant great presence for its moment of spring glory, which can last for many weeks. Scattered across pastures, spread around the feet of deciduous trees in wet woodlands, springing up in windswept marshes or along stream banks and ditches, this is a plant that relishes having soggy feet.
Flora Britannica advises that, in the Isle of Man, where plant rituals survived until very recently, ‘it was held in high regard as a spring omen, and flowers were strewn on doorsteps on old May Eve. Now the custom of bringing “mayflower”… into the house is enjoying something of a revival, and improvised vases of blooms have been seen on counters and in shop windows’.
Caltha palustris is considered to be a truly ancient native plant, having survived through periods of glaciation, subsequently flourishing in the drenched landscapes watered by melted ice. Numerous flying insects, attracted by the highly visible yellow flowers, forage for nectar and pollen. The popular name of ‘marshmarigold’ is self-explanatory and another, ‘kingcup’, refers to a golden button or stud—cop in Old English—on royal attire. Localised monikers include may-blobs, molly blobs, pollyblobs, water-bubbles and, more mysteriously, ‘the publican’. KBH