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May-apple Podophyllum peltatum


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credit: Velocicaptor

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Family: Berberidaceae, Barberry view all from this family

Description Single, fragrant white flower concealed beneath huge, deeply divided leaves. The leaves, roots, seeds and unripe fruit of this plant are poisonous.
Habit: native perennial herb; erect stems; spreads by rhizome to form large colonies.
Height: 1-2 ft (30-60 cm)
Leaf: one or two per stem, opposite, stalked, rubbery, deeply palmately divided; to 12 in (30 cm) diameter.
Flower: white, nodding, 1-3 in (2.5-7.5 cm) wide; with 6-9 waxy petals; on thin stalk from fork in stem, held below leaves.
Fruit: large berry, green turning yellow (rarely orange or maroon), to .2 in (5.5 mm) across.

Warning Leaves, seeds, and especially the roots (which are used medicinally) are poisonous to humans and animals if ingested in high quantities. Sensitivity to a toxin varies with a personís age, weight, physical condition, and individual susceptibility. Children are most vulnerable because of their curiosity and small size. Toxicity can vary in a plant according to season, the plantís different parts, and its stage of growth; and plants can absorb toxic substances, such as herbicides, pesticides, and pollutants from the water, air, and soil.

Flower April to June.

Flower March - April (in south); May (in north)

Habitat Mixed deciduous forest, fields, moist road banks, river banks; 150-2600 ft (50-800 m).

Range Native to eastern North America, from Quebec to Florida, west to Texas, northeast to Nebraska, Minnesota and Ontario; sometimes cultivated as an ornamental.

Discussion Also known as indian apple, hog apple, wild mandrake, mandrake. Endangered in Florida. After the fruit ripens in early to mid-summer, the plant goes dormant.

Comments May apple colonizes by rhizomes, forming dense mats in damp, open places.

Exposure Preference Partial shade.

Native Distribution Quebec & s. Ontario to Florida, w. to Minnesota, e. Nebraska, e. Kansas & e. Texas

Site Preference Moist, deciduous woods; shady meadows

Soil Preference Moist, humus-rich soils. pH 4-7.