Every year we have quite a few leaves but very rarely do we actually get a flower! So I was very excited the other day when I spied this from several feet away. I was actually having a fairly serious work discussion with the MMA’s Executive Director when quite frankly, I pretty much shushed him by throwing up my hand and saying “Wait! It’s a Mayapple!” Thoroughly confusing him of course because what the heck is a Mayapple? My son was also present and at age two is now into mimicking things he thinks sound fun so then he started yelling in two-year-old speak, “We have a Mayapple!” Of course, it typically flowers in May – thus its name – but on Nantucket that would be the beginning of June.
For those of you not familiar with what one is, here is some information on it from the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center.
Podophyllum peltatum L.
Mayapple, Indian apple, Wild mandrake, Pomme de mai, Podophylle pelt
Berberidaceae (Barberry Family)
USDA Symbol: POPE
USDA Native Status: L48 (N), CAN (N)
Mayapple is unique in that It has only 2 leaves and 1 flower, which grows in the axil of the leaves. The large, twin, umbrella-like leaves of mayapple are showy and conspicuous. They remain closed as the stem lengthens, unfolding 6–8 inches across when the plant has reached its 1-1 1/2 ft. height. The solitary, nodding, white to rose-colored flower grows in the axil of the leaves and has 6–9 waxy white petals, with many stamens. The nodding fruit is a large, fleshy, lemon-shaped berry.
Mayapple colonizes by rhizomes, forming dense mats in damp, open woods. The common name refers to the May blooming of its apple-blossom-like flower. Although the leaves, roots, and seeds are poisonous if ingested in large quantities, the roots were used as a cathartic by Native Americans. The edible, ripe, golden-yellow fruits can be used in jellies. The alternate popular name Mandrake rightly belongs to an unrelated Old World plant with a similar root.