- Author: Betty Victor
On a recent trip to the Midwest, I came across one of their native plants. This plant has a variety of names depending on the part of the Midwest it grows in. I was in Missouri and there it is called Mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum), in other parts of the Midwest it may be called May pop, devils apple, raccoon berry, just to name a few. In researching this plant I found it is a member of the Berberidaceae family.
The Mayapple is an unusual plant. It grows in the woods and areas that stay wet most of the year. The one I saw was at the edge of woods not far from a running creek. It is a low growing plant that appears to spread maybe by rhizomes, because of where it was growing it was hard to tell as there was poison ivy growing there as well.
When it is still young it has a single stem with one large umbrella looking leaf. As it ages, which usually is sometime in April, the leaf and stem split creating 2 leaves and 2 stems the flower. You have to look for is in the bottom part of the 2 stems that come together. Since the weather in Missouri is unusual this year, the plant is late in blooming, so the split had not happened when I was there.
I was told that the flower hides underneath the leaves until the stem grows a stalk 12-18 inches tall. It is only then the large white flower appears. After the flower fades large yellow fruit appear. The fruit is said to be edible, but only when it is fully ripe, which is when they have lost their green color, but I would not advise eating it. If consumed in large amounts, the danger of toxicity occurs. NOTE: UC Master Gardeners do not recommend eating anything without proper identification by a professional botanist.