Mayapple Magic

Watch the fun unfold all season long with mayapple.

When mayapples (Podophyllum peltatum) start to poke above the soil in early spring, they look like green mushrooms. But as they quickly rise, a pair of large, lobed, umbrella-like leaves unfurls atop each stalk. At the V-shaped juncture of the leaf stalks, a single nodding white flower blooms. The flower develops into an oval, yellowish fruit that looks like a miniature lemon when it matures in early summer. Like many other spring ephemeral wildflowers, mayapple dies back by midsummer. It spreads by thick, rhizomatous roots to form dense colonies over time.

Common name: Mayapple, American mandrake

Botanical name: Podophyllum peltatum

Plant type: herbaceous perennial

Zones: 3 to 9

Height: 1 to 1-1/2 feet

Family: Berberidaceae

Growing conditions

  • Sun: Part to full shade (under deciduous trees)
  • Soil: Slightly acidic woodland soil with plenty of organic matter
  • Moisture: Slightly moist to slightly dry

Care

  • Mulch: A light layer of leaves
  • Pruning: None needed
  • Fertilizer: An annual sprinkling of compost

Propagation

  • From seeds or division

Pests and diseases

  • Rust (a fungal disease) sometimes appears on leaves but does not require treatment.

Cultivars

  • None

Garden notes

  • Because of its colony-forming growth habit, mayapple makes a lovely spring groundcover for woodland gardens.
  • Fully ripe mayapple fruits can be used to make preserves, but the plant’s other parts are toxic.

All in the family

  • Mayapple is a member of the barberry family (Berberidaceae), which contains both woody plants like barberry (Berberis spp.) and herbaceous perennials like mayapple.
  • Other herbaceous plants in the barberry family include epimediums (Epimedium spp.), twinleaf (Jeffersonia diphylla), and blue cohosh (Caulophyllum thalictroides).

Where to buy
American Native Nursery, Quakertown, PA, americannativenursery.com
Amanda’s Garden, Springwater, NY, amandagarden.com
Joy Creek Nursery, Scappoose, OR, joycreek.com
Niche Gardens, Chapel Hill, NC, nichegardens.com