Marsh marigolds or King Cups (Calutha palustris) have been growing in Britain possibly since the last Ice Age. The name comes from the Anglo-Saxon, mersa mear-geallia meaning marsh horse gold, and they are, as the name suggests, native to wetlands in Europe and North America. They look like huge buttercups and are nothing like the cowslip which is of the Primula family, although they are often called this in North America. They are also called Sponsa solis the Latin name referring to the fact that the flowers open and close as the sun rises and sets. The name Calathus comes from the Greek meaning goblet or cup and palus the Latin for marsh.
   They have been used for decorations and garlands in May Day festivals and in Beltane celebrations. They are associated with the strength of the Mother Earth goddess as well as the sun. These flowers were associated with the Virgin Mary in the Middle Ages (not the common garden marigold, calendula officinalis) and used to decorate churches; an example of the pagan rites being accommodated by the Church.
   The leaves can be cooked and eaten like spinach although they need to be boiled in fresh water several times as they contain helleborin. The flower buds can be pickled and used as a substitute for capers. If you use the leaves as pot herbs you need to boil them as before. The leaves can cause skin irritation, so be careful if you have sensitive skin. They were named plant of the year in Germany in 1999.
   Another name for the marsh marigold is verrucaria as they were used traditionally to get rid of warts.
  The whole plant used to be made into a tincture and given in very small doses to epilepsy sufferers and for anaemia. To make the tincture the whole plant must be picked when it is flowering, and then chopped and pounded to a pulp. Then you carefully spread it out on a cotton cloth and press it. The expressed juice should then be added to an equal amount of alcohol and steeped for 8 to 10 days in an airtight jar or stoppered bottle in a cool dark place. After that it should be drained and transferred to another clean bottle and stored in a cool dark place and diluted well before each use.

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