Marsh Marigolds at Aetna Creek

2020 August 2

On May 22, 2020, we were on our trip up to Copper Harbor. The road up to the tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula is a “Scenic Drive”, which is apparently a code-word for “twisting through the woods and likely to cause motion-sickness”[1]. Sam and I are both kind of prone to motion-sickness, so partway up we needed to stop for a bit. And there was a little turnout for Aetna Creek which looked like a good spot.


The little bridge over the creek was a good spot to get some fresh air and recuperate.


There was a marshy area to the sides of the creek, which was well-populated with these pretty yellow flowers, growing from plants with large, lush-looking leaves.


These are pretty clearly Marsh Marigolds, Caltha palustris, which are very common in boggy regions all around the northern hemisphere. They obviously grow up very fast in the spring, getting significant growth and full blossoms when most other plants are just getting started (you may note, for example, that in the first two pictures a lot of the trees didn’t have leaves yet). I expect that one thing that helps them get jump-started is that running water warms up faster than soil, so they unfreeze before the terrestrial plants do.

The flowers are very nice, with a brilliant yellow color.


This early in the spring, there still weren’t very many flying pollinators, so in this case pollination seems to have being done by ants. Well, by this ant, anyway.


I guess sometimes people eat these plants when they are young and tender, with a couple of changes of boiling water. But, it is important that it be cooked, and probably that you avoid excessive quantities, as Wikipedia says that “Larger quantities of the plant may cause convulsions, burning of the throat, vomiting, bloody diarrhea, dizziness and fainting. Contact of the skin or mucous membranes with the juices can cause blistering or inflammation, and gastric illness if ingested.”

All in all, I think I am not so much in need of new culinary sensations that I would want to try eating this stuff. And isn’t it sufficient for them to be pretty, without necessarily being edible?

[1] In his book “The Colour of Magic”, Terry Pratchett included a couple of other related codewords commonly used to mislead tourists:

“Picturesque” means that the terrain is horribly precipitous.

“Quaint” means fever-ridden and tumbledown.

One could go on in this vein for some time, I think.

2 Responses
  1. Anne Bingham permalink
    August 2, 2020

    And don’t we all miss not having another Terry Pratchett book to look forward to!

  2. August 30, 2020


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