Index- plants in this Family
Berberidaceae / Barberry
Mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum)
Mayapple is also known as Mandrake.

Plant Type: This is a herbaceous plant, it is a perennial which can reach 45cm in height (18inches).
Leaves: The leaf arrangement is opposite. . There can be one or two leaves. Only plants with two leaves flower. Each shiny, yellow green, umbrella like leaf is deeply lobed.
Flowers: The flowers have 6 Regular Parts and are up to 5cm wide (2 inches). They are white. Blooms first appear in mid spring and continue into late spring. Thought most plants have 6 petals some have up to nine.
Fruit: A berry which looks much like a lime. See 'Other Images' below.
Habitat: Rich woods where there is an open canopy and sometimes in seasonally mowed areas.
Range: Throughout the southeast.

      Color Photo     More Info      Classification

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Mayapples usually grow in groups and the shiny, slightly unusual leaf color makes them very distinctive and easy to spot. The flowers, on the other hand, hang below the leaves and must be looked for.

Lore: The fruit is edible when ripe but all other parts of the plant are toxic. The Native Americans may have used a powdered root preparation as an insecticide on their crops and soaked seeds in a decoction to protect them from pests.
: All parts of the plant except the ripe fruit are extremly toxic. The root, which is easily powered, is a powerful eye irritant.

Medical Uses: Although too poisonous to use in home remedies this plant has many medical uses. Native Americans used the root as a strong laxative, to treat worms and for numerous other things. The root is currently used in cancer medications and may have commercial potential as a cultivated plant. There are accounts of the Indians use of the root to commit suicide with death occurring in just hours. The size of the lethal dose is unclear.

See the links below this image for other images. (1)
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Mayapple - fruit  © Daniel Reed

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More Info:  
The Search below may provide more information about this species. Some of URLs may have been used as a source for this page not otherwise cited. Most of the information not cited comes from multiple sources that can be found in the Books page. The USDA plant links are provided by: USDA, NRCS 1999. The PLANTS database ( National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA. You can check species names at ITIS Advanced Search to see if they meet the current ITIS taxonomic criteria.

By: Newcomb, Lawrence and Illustrated by Morrison, Gordon. 1977, Little, Brown and Company, ISBN:0-316-60442-9

One of the best general guides to wildflowers of the North Eastern and North Central United States. Newcomb's key is an excellent, simple method for identifying plants. Newcomb has drawings for almost every plant mentioned that are excellent aids to identifying the species. Though only the more common plants are covered this is often the first book I pick up when trying to identify a wildflower.

Wildflo wers of Tennessee the Ohio Valley and the Southern Appalachians
By: Dennis Horn and Tavia Cathcart and Thomas E. Hemmerly and David Duhl. , ISBN:1551054280

This is perhaps the best of many field guides covering this region. Featuring 446 excellent color photographs (located with the text) and mentioning as similar to those illustrated are another 800 or so species for a total coverage of over 1,200 species. The start of each family section includes line drawings of some of the species showing important features. The text includes the usual description, bloom season, range, habitat and additionally includes information such as medical uses and lore and how the species was named. This is the official field guide of the Tennessee Native Plant Society.

Angiosperms / Flowering Plants
Dicots / Two Seed Leaves



Welcome / Glossary / Books / Links / Feedback / Image use policy - Wildflowers of the Southeastern United States, Page updated on 11/23/2002 7:55:41 AM.