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25 Sept 2022

Kildare's Wildlife Watch: The poisonous mayflower which treats warts

With the Irish Peatland Conservation Council

Kildare's Wildlife Watch: The poisonous mayflower which treats warts

The marsh marigold. Picture: Gillian Madigan

My sister was out for a walk and came across a patch of bright yellow wildflowers that were growing in damp ground. Thinking they may have been some type of buttercup, she decided to take a picture and asked me later that evening what was the wildflower she had observed.

I helped her to identify the wildflower as marsh marigold (lus buí bealtaine as Gaeilge). Some of you may know this wildflower as king cup, and this native wildflower is a member of the ranunculaceae family, whose members include both the creeping and meadow buttercup.

Marsh marigold flowers from April to August each year, and although it looks like each flower has between five and eight golden yellow petals, this wildflower does not have any petals.

What appears to be petals on the plant are actually its sepals. These are usually found under the petals and are the protective layer when in bud.

Usually the sepals are green, but those of marsh marigold are bright golden yellow and this is why they are often confused for the flowers petals.

The fleshy green leaves are kidney shaped, are held on hollow stems and grow in size once marsh marigold flowers. This plant can be found growing in marshes, ditches, ponds and wet woodlands.

This plant is poisonous and it is said that extracts were once used to treat warts. Marsh marigold is also considered the May flower, and was placed in doorways and windows on the April 30 each year to help ward off evil spirits from the home.

Over the coming weeks, many of your communities’ wildflowers are going to begin to bloom. If you observe a wildflower and are unsure of what it is, I suggest you take a picture and on your return home use www.wildflowersofireland.net to identify your observation.

You can then become a citizen scientist by submitting your record to the National Biodiversity Data Centre by visiting https://records.biodiversityireland. ie/start-recording.

Don’t forget if you come across a wildlife species that you would like help identifying I would be happy to help. Contact me at bogs@ipcc.ie.

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