“Winking Marybuds begin to ope their golden eyes”.
William Shakespeare; Cymbeline, II, iii:
Another cheery yellow flower this time of year is the Caltha palustis, marsh marigold or kingcup. This common member of the Ranunculaceae (little frog) or buttercup family, forms large clumps in damp areas and shallow edges of ponds. It looks like a giant buttercup, and is said to be one of the most ancient of British wild flowers; a survivor from the ice age. Its name reflects it habitat and shape, as palustris, in Latin, means marsh, whilst caltha, derives from the Latin calathos meaning a cup or goblet.
According to Mrs. Grieve; ‘The English name Marigold refers to its use in church festivals in the Middle Ages, as one of the flowers devoted to the Virgin Mary. It was also used on May Day festivals, being strewn before cottage doors and made into garlands.’
Michael Jordan in Plants of Mystery and Magic also indicates that ‘Like others that bloom at the same time of year, it has featured in Mayday celebrations, and was a source of protection against witchcraft on Mayday Eve of Beltane. One of its local names in the Isle of Man was Lud y Voaldyn or blughtan, which means ‘the herb of Beltane’. It has conversely been an unlucky plant to bring into the house prior to the first of May.’ He goes onto say that ‘Bunches were hung in houses during May as a protection against lightening and, if picked with a certain ritual and carried about on the person, it has been believed that the bearer will be protected from having angry words spoken of him or her.’
The above plant lives in the shallow end of my pond, allowing the tadpoles to happily feed around its roots; however for us, feeding on the marigold is not to be recommended as along with the rest of its family it is poisonous. Mrs Grieve in her Modern Herbal adds; ‘It has been called Verrucaria because it is efficacious in curing warts; also Solsequia and Sponsa solis because the flower opens at the rising of the sun and closes at its setting.’ Not quite so sunny are the toxins contained in this lovely herald of spring. it can be an irritant, and has been known to causes rashes, It is also said to support the treatment of fits. (not sure how) And a tea made from the leaves is said to act as a laxative. That’s not hard to visualise, I feel that if I had ingested something poisonous I would expect (or hope for) a laxative effect. However when cooked, many sources class it as edible; sorry to say I do not intend to try it.