Podophyllum peltatum L. - Mayapple

Podophyllum peltatum plant

Family - Berberidaceae

Stems - To 40cm tall, erect, herbaceous, glabrous, from rhizomes, simple. Plants colonial.

Leaves - Typically two per plant, opposite and terminating stem, petilolate, peltate. Petioles to +/-8cm long, glabrous. Blade orbicular in outline, typically 5-9-lobed. Lobes entire to coarse serrate, often divided at apex, glabrous, obovate.

Podophyllum peltatum leaf

Inflorescence - Single flower from between leaf petioles and terminating stem, only one per plant. Pedicel to +/-4cm long, 3-4mm in diameter at anthesis, glabrous.

Flowers - Petals white or with a pinkish tinge, 6 to 9, to 3.5cm long, 2.7cm broad, glabrous, entire, obovate. Stamens typically twice as many as the petals, erect. Filaments to 5mm long, white, 2mm wide. Anthers 1cm long, yellow. Ovary glabrous, superior, 7-8mm in diameter, 1.1cm long, cylindric, slightly contracted at both ends, unilocular. Placentation parietal. Stigma sessile, globose. Sepals 6, green, glabrous, orbicular to broadly ovate, falling very early. Berry to 5cm in diameter, yellowish when ripe.

Podophyllum peltatum flowerFlower.

Podophyllum peltatum fruitFruit.

Flowering - March - May.

Habitat - Low woods, open woods, thickets, railroads.

Origin - Native to U.S.

Other info. - The first sighting of Podophyllum leaves is a good indicator that spring is arriving as the plant is one of the first to bloom in the new year. The flowers only last a day or two. The fruits develop slowly and become ripe around August. The fruit is edible when ripe and can be eaten raw, but it is better when cooked. The leaves, stem, and rhizomes of the plant are toxic. The plant was used by indians to treat parasites, syphilis, jaundice, and other ailments. Recently, synthetics of the plants substances have been used in cancer research. Some people have allergic reactions to handling the rhizomes as they contain the allergenic compound Podophyllin.
The description above is for form peltatum. Another form, form deamii Raymond, has pink to purplish petals, a deep purple ovary, and maroon fruits. This from is rare.

Photographs taken at Leawood City Park, Leawood, Kansas, 4-2-00, and in Brown Summit, NC., 7-14-02 and 4-20-03.


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