Friday, February 10, 2012

Native Plant of the Week: Mayapple ~ Podophyllum peltatum

Mayapple ~ Podophyllum peltatum


It won't be long before the coiled up leaves of Mayapple start emerging through the soil. A wonderful spring emergence, Mayapples are often found in large clusters in woodlands.

As the two oppositely arranged leaves unfurl, they open up into an umbrella like form creating a shaded spot for the flower underneath to emerge.
The shoots appear as early as the beginning of April in Minnesota. This photo was taken at Nerstrand State Park after a fall understory burn.

The two leaves are large, 6-8" across and lobed. They are thick and almost tacky to the touch.
You have to look hard for the flower as it opens beneath the cover of the leaves above at the junction where the two leaves join.

A 1-2" wide white flower opens in May, with 6 or more petals. It hangs downwards from the junction. The resulting fruit 'apple', is an enlarged yellow pod (berry) with many seeds.

The flower is reportedly quite fragrant, I have not tried to smell them myself. The whole plant is poisonous.

Mayapples like mesic woodlands in part to shade. They're a great plant to have come up around early flowering ephemerals such as Hepatica or False Rue Anemone. They do spread by rhizomes and will form a loose cluster.

They are native to eastern North America. See map below for range.
Kartesz, J.T., The Biota of North America Program (BONAP).
2011. 
North American Plant Atlas. Chapel Hill, N.C.