Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
Northeast Wetland Flora
Field Office Guide to Plant Species
Caltha palustris L.
- Family: Buttercup (Ranunculaceae)
- Flowering: April-August
- Field Marks: This species is readily distinguished by its simple, violet-like leaves, its hollow
stems, and its bright yellow flowers that have 5-9 petal-like sepals, many stamens, and 3 or
more pistils per flower.
- Habitat: Wet woods, swamps, wet meadows, bogs, sometimes in shallow water.
- Habit: Perennial herb from fibrous roots.
- Stems: Spreading to upright, smooth, hollow, shallowly furrowed, up to 2 feet long.
- Leaves: Basal leaves nearly circular to kidney-shaped, rounded at the tip, heart-shaped at the base, with or without teeth, smooth, up to 6 inches long and often nearly as broad, on stalks longer than the blades; upper leaves similar but smaller and sessile.
- Flowers: Solitary from the axils of the leaves, up to 1 3/4 inches broad, bright yellow, on stout, smooth stalks.
- Sepals: 5-9, bright yellow, free from each other, oval, rounded at the tip, up to 1 1/4 inches long, up to 3/4 inch broad.
- Petals: 0.
- Stamens: Numerous.
- Pistils: 3-12, free from each other, each with a superior ovary.
- Fruits: A cluster of flattened follicles, each follicle recurved-ascending, smooth, up to 3/4 inch long, prominently beaked, with many seeds.
- Notes: Pioneers used the young shoots of this plant, which they called cowslip, for a spring vegetable.
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