By Katie Stannard
Mayapple leaves almost fully emerged.
This week’s native plant is mayapple, Podophyllum peltatum. Held aloft by thick stems, a sea of umbrella-shaped mayapple leaves is a distinctive sight–especially when rain or dew makes them shimmer in the early morning sunlight.
Called “mayapple” due to its apple blossom-like blooms which emerge in May, common names include wild mandrake, Indian apple, raccoon berry, and wild lemon.
Mayapple’s native range extends across eastern North America and south to Texas. Spreading by rhizomes, a single root may form an entire colony. It prefers the moist shady areas of riverbanks, wetlands, and deciduous forests.
Known as one of the spring ephemerals, mayapple appears before deciduous trees fully leaf out, then fades away with the shading provided by leaf cover, augmented by heat of the summer. With attractive, interesting leaves and flowers, it’s a nice addition to woodland gardens with moist, rich soil conditions similar to a forest floor ecosystem.
Ripe mayapple fruits.