By William T. Hathaway

Mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum)

The Mayapple or Wild Mandrake (Podophyllum peltatum) begins to be noticeable in the last few days of March. At this time the growing plants begin to thrust up through the soils and leaf litter of moist bottom lands. The individual rising plants take on the shape of spirally twisted candlesticks. Within a few days the green leaves slowly unfold until they appear like little umbrellas with a two-pronged upper stem. As the leaves develop, the plant colony forms a green canopy which hides the large, nodding white flowers attached to the fork of the upper stem. April and May are the flowering/fruiting months for our local plants.

Egg-shaped, dangling, green fruits eventually turn bright yellow and have a slightly sweet taste which is enjoyable to some people and nauseating to others. It is known that the roots, leaves, and seeds are poisonous if consumed in large quantities. Records show that ripened fruit of the Mayapple can be used in jellies.