Mayapple Podophyllum Peltatum
Updated: Sep 29, 2019
It's very easy to identify this herbaceous perennial that covers the woodland floors. It grows in colonies and loves shaded areas, just look for the umbrellas popping up. Also known as American Mandrake, Ducks Foot, and Hogs Apple. In its first year, it only produces one leaf-these first year plants will not bloom.
In May these two leafed plants will form a bud. The white flower will bloom and ripen to produce the May "apple" as the flower wilts away. The May apple won't be fully ripe until late summer. Some report the May apple fruit to be edible, and others report it to be mildly poisonous, though it does serve as food for wildlife. The rest of the plant is poisonous.
Due to it's toxicity some American Indians, used the root of this plant to commit suicide. The whole root can be tucked under the mattress to ensure the fertility and virility of the couple who sleep upon it. Kept in a high place in the home, Mayapple root is said to draw prosperity to the home and protect it from bad luck. If you carry a single root rolled up in paper money and tie together with your own shoe strings is said to conjure wealth. In the 1800s and early 1900s, Mayapple extract was used as an active ingredient in Carter’s Little Liver Pills. Today, it is used as an extract to remove genital warts, and has been used with in conjunction with chemotherapy to treat lung cancer and tumors.