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Mandrake or May Apple


May Apple; Hog Apple; Mandrake; Wild Lemon

Podophyllum peltatum

Flowers - White, solitary, large, unpleasantly scented, nodding from the fork between a pair of terminal leaves. Calyx of 6 short-lived sepals; 6 to 9 rounded, flat petals; stamens as many as petals or (usually) twice as many; 1 pistil, with a thick stigma. Stem: 1 to 1-1/2 ft. high, from a long, running rootstock. Leaves: Of flowerless stems (from separate rootstock), solitary, on a long petiole from, base, nearly 1 ft. across, rounded, centrally peltate, umbrella fashion, 5 to 7 lobed, the lobes 2-cleft, dark above, light green below. Leaves of flowering stem 1 to 3, usually a pair, similar to others, but smaller.

Fruit: A fleshy, yellowish, egg-shaped, many-seeded fruit about 2 in. long.

Preferred Habitat - Rich, moist woods.

Flowering Season - May.

Distribution - Quebec to the Gulf of Mexico, westward to Minnesota and Texas.

In giving this plant its abridged scientific name, Linnaeus seemed to see in its leaves a resemblance to a duck's foot (Anapodophyllum); but equally imaginative American children call them green umbrellas, and declare they unfurl only during April showers.

In July, a sweetly mawkish many-seeded fruit, resembling a yellow egg-tomato, delights the uncritical palates of the little people, who should be warned, however, against putting any other part of this poisonous, drastic plant in their mouths.