CT DR P
Soil: Acidic, Muddy, Humus-rich
Moisture: Wet to Consistently Moist
Light: Full to Part Sun
Plant Height: 1 to 2 feet
Plant Width: 1 to 1.5 feet
Landscape Value: Great on stream and pond edges, in wet woodlands and in water gardens and rain gardens. Makes a good groundcover in consistently moist sites.
An easy-to-grow, mounded perennial in the buttercup family and unrelated to marigolds as the common name suggests. A harbinger of spring with thick rhizomes (underground stems) and long-stalked, glossy, heart- or kidney-shaped basal leaves that bear deep, narrow notches. Upper stem leaves are small and stalkless. Clusters of shiny, bright yellow flowers occur on hollow, branching stems and bloom mid-April to June. Although flowers appear entirely yellow to humans, insects are drawn to the “bee’s purple” they see in the upper parts. Flowers produce nectar and copious pollen that attracts bees, beetles and flies, especially hoverflies. Flowers give way to seed pods that split open when ripe, forming splash cups. Raindrops hitting the cups causes them to bend and expel seeds. Spongy tissue on the seeds enables them to float on water until washing up in a suitable location. Best flowering occurs in full sun, but plants appreciate afternoon shade in the summer. Full day sun in summer months may force plants to go dormant. Susceptible to powdery mildew. Tolerates shallow standing water. Young leaves are edible if covered with 2-3 changes of boiling water and cooked until barely tender. Leaves should not be eaten raw. The common name of marigold, originally “Mary Gold”, is in reference to its use in medieval churches at Easter as a tribute to the Virgin Mary.
Warning: Plant juices can cause blistering or inflammation of skin and mucous membranes, as well as gastric distress if ingested. Leaves are toxic in large quantities.
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center (photos by Doug Sherman)
North Carolina State Extension (photo by Bernd H)