Marsh Marigold – Caltha Palustris: Edible & Medicinal Uses of the Early Greens of Wild Plants

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In Chippewa, o’gite’bug, marsh marigold is a wild edible and medicinal plant that grows too close to water hemlock for the comfort of many. Although they look nothing like each other! Also note marsh marigold across the Atlantic is a different plant.

Early spring, when wild food is slim pickings, pollinators and foragers alike can find wild edibles like marsh marigold flowers and willow catkins. For us humans, these are “starvation” or blander culinary adventure foods. I don’t know if the wild ones feel the same way. I have heard of plants referred to as starvation food for wild animals too, but at least in some cases we have opposite tastes (e.g. staghorn sumac, which humans use as a spice, but apparently a bottom of the barrel choice for some species).

Edible Uses of Marsh Marigold

Marsh marigold, like Jack-in-the-pulpit, is another barely edible plant that requires expert preparation. Otherwise, burning and puking is likely.

Marsh Marigold - Caltha Palustris
Marsh Marigold – Caltha Palustris

The raw leaves are toxic and can even irritate the skin. However, before the plant flowers you can carefully and expertly cook the leaves to make them edible. You’ll need about three boilings with changes of water. It may take up to an hour of boiling to tenderize them. The flavor will get milder with each boil and the resulting well cooked green mush will need a butter or cream sauce and/or seasoning for palatability.

The flower buds can be cooked and pickled to be like capers. But don’t drink the pickling juice. The flowers can be sparingly eaten raw, but note all parts of the yellow flowering marsh marigold contain toxic glycosides. Once the plant flowers the toxins increase.

High in vitamin C.

Medicinal Uses of Marsh Marigold

Marsh Marigold is primarily said to support these body systems:

  • Integumentary

Medicinal tags include Counterirritant, Diuretic, and Laxative. See Medicinal tag key for more information.

Common usage includes the caustic juice used to remove warts. It’s debatable as warts tend to go away on their own! Also as a counter-irritant, teas made from the leaves may be used as laxative and mashed roots induce vomiting, but there are much apter and less irritating medicines for these purposes.

Alternative Uses of Marsh Buttercup

A yellow dye can be obtained from the flowers.

Growing Caltha Palustris

Marsh marigolds are an eye catching addition to wet view. They are super easy to transplant. You may be able to find them in a wet marshy ditch like I did – the spot was being dug for a new culvert. I also bought some from later on for a second plot of them. And plopping them into your own pond or wet ditch is the safest way to get more familiar with its appearance throughout its life cycle, in case you really want to try that green mush!

Frog Pond

I haven’t regretted putting a pond in. I used a regular pond liner for this first one. I’m going for a second pond now! But I’d like to try a more natural build this time around.

At peak summer, I can’t even count the frogs. Just make sure you dig below the frost line and put a lot of sand and rocks and muck in the bottom for our local frogs to hibernate in, or it will likely become a floaty mass grave in the spring. And if you’re worried about skeeters – I don’t notice much of a difference in mosquitoes. Just buckets of frogs, garter snakes, more dragonflies, and other wild life taking advantage of the pond. I even see the rare blue frog.


The whole plant contains toxic glycosides which are destroyed by heat.

This plant also often grows near one of our most poisonous, water hemlock. Be vigilant in marshes and other wet spots as just handling water hemlock can land you in the hospital.

And the Usual Cautions:

1) Most medicinal herbs, if edible, are meant to be eaten in moderation, even sparingly. Some require extra preparation. Tannins are toxic if consumed in excess.

2) People can be allergic or sensitive to nearly any plant; try new herbs one at a time at your own risk. For instance, saponins commonly cause stomach upset.

3) For medicinal use, I must recommend receiving a diagnosis and working with a reputed health care provider. I generally do not post specific treatments and dosages because I think that is best between you and your health care provider, and ideally monitored.

4) Anyone pregnant, nursing, or taking prescription drugs should talk to a health care professional before adding new food items to their diet.

5) Many plants have look-a-likes, and sometimes they are poisonous.

#ads in References

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wiki/Caltha_palustris (I think the Wiki on this one is a bit of a mess – mixing up North American and European marsh marigolds. I only reference to keep track of changes in scientific names.)

How Indians Use Wild Plants for Food, Medicine & Crafts (Native American)

Ontario Nature Guide

Edible and Medicinal Plants of Canada

Field Guide to North American Edible Wild Plants (Out of Print)

Reader’s Digest Magic and Medicine of Plants

Stalking the Healthful Herbs (Field Guide Edition)

The Forager’s Harvest: A Guide to Identifying, Harvesting, and Preparing Edible Wild Plants

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