Flora of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago

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S.G. Aiken, M.J. Dallwitz, L.L. Consaul, C.L. McJannet, R.L. Boles, G.W. Argus, J.M. Gillett, P.J. Scott, R. Elven, M.C. LeBlanc, L.J. Gillespie, A.K. Brysting, H. Solstad, and J.G. Harris

Caltha palustris L.

English: Marsh marigold, cowslip, cowflock, kingcup, buttercup,

French: Populage des marais, soucis d'eau.

Ranunculaceae, Buttercup family.

Published in Sp. Pl. 558. 1753.

Type: Described from Europe, selected by Jonsell and Jarvis, in Jarvis et al., Regnum Veg. 127: 28. 1993. Lectotype: UPS: Herb. Burser XV (2): 82.

Synonymy. Caltha arctica R. Br., Chlor. Melvill. 7. 1823.

Caltha palustris L. var. arctica (R. Br.) Huth, Helios 9: 70. 1891.

Caltha palustris L. var. radicans ( T.F.Forst. ) A.Gray , 1, pt. 1: 39. 1895.

Caltha palustris L. subsp. arctica (R.Br.) Hultén, Ark. Bot., n. s., 7, 1: 56. 1968.

Caltha minor Mill. subsp. arctica (R. Br.) Á. Löve and D. Löve, Bot. Not. 128: 510. 1976.

Caltha palustris var. arctica (R. Br.) Huth. In Kungl. Svenska Vetenskapsakad Handl. 13: 336. 1971.

Caltha palustris L. var. flabellifolia (Pursh) Torrey and A Gray, Flora of North America, 1: 27. 1838.

Vegetative morphology. Plants 10–25 cm high; perennial herbs; caespitose. Only fibrous roots present. Ground level or underground stems horizontal; stoloniferous; elongate. Caudex present (well developed in older plants). Aerial stems erect, or decumbent (arctic plants). Leaves arising singly from creeping rhizomes, or distributed along the stems; alternate; dying annually and non-persistent. Stipules absent. Petioles 14–170 mm long. Leaf blades simple. Leaf blade bases cordate. Leaves not grass-like. Blades 5–55 mm long (to 120 mm long on continental North America), 10–40 mm wide (to 190 mm wide on continental North America), ovate or circular or reniform, flat, veins palmate, not septate nodulose. Blade adaxial surface shiny, glabrous. Blade abaxial surface glabrous. Blades not lobed. Blade margins entire (usually) or crenate or dentate; apices rounded.

Reproductive morphology. Flowering stems solitary. Flowers solitary (arctic plants, in the axis of subsessile cauline leaves), or in inflorescences (with 2–7 flowers, on continental North America). Inflorescences racemose. Flowers medium-sized, or large. Sepals conventional; 5; free; 4–10 mm long; 9–17 mm wide; yellow (or orange); petaloid. Calyx glabrous. Petals absent. Stamens 70–90; stamen filaments glabrous. Anthers 1.2–2 mm long. Receptacle 6–9 mm high. Ovary carpels 30–45; apocarpous. Styles 0.8–1.2 mm long. Stigmas per ovary 1. Ovules per ovary 1. Fruit stalk 3–5 mm long; dry; an aggregate of follicles; ellipsoid; purple; 5–10(–25) mm long; 1.5–4 mm wide (spreading, sessile, elipsoid; each follicle 8–15 mm × 3–4.5 mm); dehiscent. Styles remaining straight (or curved, 0.5–2 mm long); persisting in fruit 1.7–2.3 mm long. Seeds 4–15; 1.5–2 mm long (elliptic); brown; surfaces smooth.

Chromosome information. 2n = 32, or 56, or 60–70.

2n (4x, x = 8) = 32. Sokolovskaya (1958, northern Russia); Sokolovskaya and Strelkova (1960, northern Russia); Johnson and Packer (1968, northwestern Alaska, as C. palustris s.l.); Krogulevich (1976a, northern Siberia; 1984, Siberia); Zhukova and Petrovsky (1987b, northeastern Asia); Zhukova (1980, southern Chukotka); Lavrenko and Serditov (1986, northern Russia);

2n (8x, x = 7) = 56. Bormann and Beatty (1955, northern Alaska); Packer and McPherson (1974, northern Alaska); Löve and Löve (1975, northern Alaska); Krogulevich (1976a, northern Siberia); Zhukova and Petrovsky (1976, western Chukotka; 1987b, northeastern Asia); Löve and Löve (1982, Arctic Canada);

2n = 60. Mosquin and Hayley (1966, northern Canada); Löve and Ritchie (1966, northern Canada, 2n = 60, about 60); Hedberg (1967, northern Canada, 2n = about 60, as C. palustris s.l.); Krogulevich (1976a, northern Siberia, 2n = 58–60); Zhukova et al. (1977, northeastern Asia); Zhukova (1980, southern Chukotka);

2n (8x-10x, x = 7) = 56–70. Johnson and Packer (1968, northwestern Alaska, 2n = 56–70, as C. palustris s.l.); Probatova et al. (1989, northeastern Asia, 2n = about 70, as C. minor).

Ploidy levels recorded 4x/8x/10x.

Indigenous knowledge. Greens are boiled as a potherb and the root or chopped whole plant used as antispasmotic and expectorant brews for coughs and colds, but caution should be taken against overconsumption which can cause kidney or liver inflammation (poisonous glucoside, protoanemonin) (Schofield 1989).

Ecology and habitat. Substrates: wet meadows, marshes, along streams; aquatic, imperfectly drained moist areas; till, moss; peat. Marsh marigold grows in or at the edges of tundra streams, with the roots often completely submerged.

North American distribution. Alaska, Yukon, Northwest Territories Islands, continental Northwest Territories, Nunavut Islands, continental Nunavut. Range in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago limited. Uncommon. Arctic (in the western islands). Arctic islands: Parry islands (Melville), Banks, Victoria, King William.

Northern hemisphere distribution. Circumpolar (almost; the only real gap is Greenland and Svalbard). Northern Iceland, Northern Fennoscandian, Kanin–Pechora, Polar Ural – Novaya Zemlya, Yamal–Gydan, Taimyr – Severnaya Zemlya, Anabar–Olenyok, Kharaulakh, Yana–Kolyma, West Chukotka, Wrangel Island, South Chukotka, East Chukotka, West Alaska, North Alaska – Yukon, Central Canada.

General notes. "Caltha" was applied by Vergil (before 19 B.C.) for a yellow-flowered plant, probably with reference to Calendula (Elven, personal communication, 2005). Burt (2000) suggested ‘Caltha’ means cup and refers to the shape of the flowers. This plant occurs all over the northern hemisphere, and got its name in the Middle Ages when it was called ‘the flower of the Virgin Mary’, or ‘Mary’s gold’, and ‘marybuds’. In various parts of the world, marsh marigold is known as an edible herb, though it is toxic when eaten raw. It must be dried or boiled in two changes of water in order to remove the poisonous glycoside ‘protpanemonin’ (Schofield 1989). Eating is not recommended, and it is not used by any of the people of the north, according to Burt (2000).

Ford (1997, pp. 188–189) noted that C. palustris ‘has been divided into different taxa, although plants have been most commonly assigned to two varieties in North America. Typical C. palustris var. palustris is characterised by permanently erect, stout stems that do not produce roots and shoots at the nodes after anthesis. The basal leaves are broadly cordate to reniform with coarsely crenate-dentate margins and overlapping basal lobes. Generally more than three flowers occur on the stem. In contrast, C. palustris var. flabellata [= var. arctica, var. radicans (T.F. Forester) Beck] is characterised by stems that sprawl with age and produce roots and shoots at the nodes after anthesis. The basal leaves are more or less reniform with denticulate margins and the basal lobes are widely divergent and do not overlap. Often fewer than three flowers occur on the stem. Caltha palustris var. flabellata is distributed locally throughout the range of C. palustris var. palustris; it often grows in places with more extreme environmental conditions, such as shorelines, tidal areas, swiftly running streams and rivers, and area with an arctic climate. While Caltha palustris var. palustris and var. flabellifolia are distinctive in their extremes they appear to represent elements along a morphologic continuum rather than recognizable taxonomic entities. For example, Smit (1973) found plants from Point Barrow Alaska to be dwarfed, few flowered, and prostrate, while specimens from southern Alaska were robust, many-flowered, and erect. Between these two extremes a complete series of intermediates occurs. Based on that evidence, and considering the phenotypic plasticity known to exist in this species, the infraspecific segregates were not recognised.’

Jalas and Suominen (1989) noted that continued biosytematic studies have supported the view put forward in Flora Europaea that division of Caltha palustris s.l. at specific or subspecific level is not justified, since the widely used follicle characters ‘vary independently of other morphological characters and of chromosome number’.

Schuettpelz et al. (2004) presented a phylogeny and biogeography of Caltha based on chloroplast and nuclear DNA sequences but mainly for southern hemisphere species.

Illustrations. • Habitat. Plants with yellow flowers growing in a wet Eriophorum angustifolium meadow. N.W.T., Banks Island, Aulavik National Park. 8 July, 1999. Aiken 99–026. CAN. Scale bar in cm. • Plant habit. Plant with a long trailing reddish stem growing in a wet Eriophorum angustifolium meadow. N.W.T., Banks Island, Aulavik National Park. 8 July, 1999. Aiken 99–026. CAN. Scale bar in cm. • Plant habit. Plant growing on silt patch near pond. Yellow flowers are fading to white. N.W.T., Banks Island, Sachs Harbour. 24 July, 1981. J.M. Gillett 18791. CAN. • Close-up of flower. Flower just opening with five tepals that are yellow on top and brown underneath. Note the yellow anthers are at pre-anthesis and the green carpels in the centre. N.W.T., Banks Island, Aulavik National Park. 8 July, 1999. Aiken 99–026. CAN. • Close-up of flower. Flower with yellow tepals, anthers just beginning to shed pollen, and green carpels. N.W.T., Banks Island, Aulavik National Park. 8 July, 1999. Aiken 99–026. CAN. • Fruiting inflorescence. Fruiting head an aggregate of follicles. N.W.T., south end of Richards Island. 25 July, 1947. A.E. Porsild 16788. CAN 58286. • Arctic Island Distribution.


This publication is available on the internet (posted May 2011) and on CD-ROM (published in 2007). These versions are identical in content, except that the errata page for CD-ROM is accessible on the main index page of the web version.

Recommended citation for the web-based version of this publication: Aiken, S.G., Dallwitz, M.J., Consaul, L.L., McJannet, C.L., Boles, R.L., Argus, G.W., Gillett, J.M., Scott, P.J., Elven, R., LeBlanc, M.C., Gillespie, L.J., Brysting, A.K., Solstad, H., and Harris, J.G. 2007. Flora of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago: Descriptions, Illustrations, Identification, and Information Retrieval. NRC Research Press, National Research Council of Canada, Ottawa. http://nature.ca/aaflora/data, accessed on DATE.

Recommended citation for the CD-ROM version of this publication: Aiken, S.G., Dallwitz, M.J., Consaul, L.L., McJannet, C.L., Boles, R.L., Argus, G.W., Gillett, J.M., Scott, P.J., Elven, R., LeBlanc, M.C., Gillespie, L.J., Brysting, A.K., Solstad, H., and Harris, J.G. 2007. Flora of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago: Descriptions, Illustrations, Identification, and Information Retrieval. [CD-ROM] NRC Research Press, National Research Council of Canada, Ottawa.

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