Mayapple – Podophylium peltatum

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  Mayapple flower in spring hiding under the large leaves

MAYAPPLE   (Podophylium peltatum) is a member of the  Barberry family

podophyllum peltatum_08

I don’t want the month of May to go by without focusing on the mayapple  The mayapple, also known as “Mandrake”, steals the show in May because of its penchant to grow in colonies.  You have to bend down to see the flowers, but it’s worth it!

 But, BEWARE!  Mayapples should not be invited into a flower bed because they will take over and choke out the other plants.  Their colonies are best admired in shady slopes and “hollers”.   As you approach the mayapples, be on the lookout for the eastern box turtle! Which, by the way, has the distinction of being North Carolina’s office reptile.

eastern box turtle_3 - Copy

The box turtles on the property feast on the apples and consequently most of the apples are soon gone.  They eat the apple (seed and all) which means that as the turtles expel their waste they “plant” the may-apple seeds and so propagate them further.

apple inset

But, in a couple of months, in late July we will see a few “apples” here and there.  The apple is edible and in colonial times was used for making reserves and syrups.  Indians used the root of the Mayapple for a variety of ailments including venereal disease.  Modern medicine uses derivatives of this plant in the treatment of herpes, cancer, viruses, and influenza. Thus the mayapple is one of those rare native plants which really do have medicinal qualities.

Click here to print a page about the mayapple Mayapple

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