Thursday, May 30, 2013

Mayapple

 Mayapple is one of our first spring wildflowers.  This native woodland plant produces early large leaves that the fairies use as an umbrella for the spring showers.  Mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum) is one of the herbaceous members of the barberry family. It can colonize a large area by means of its underground rhizome. It occurs naturally throughout the eastern woodlands and is very easy to grow.  It prefers a little sun and some evenly moist soil.  However,  mine grows in fairly dense shade and dry soil!



You must look under the leaves to spot the flowers.  When it is done blooming a fruit appears, the mayapple.  It is the only part of the plant that is edible and I understand it is used for jellies and jams but I have never tried it myself.  It's documented that the  first European encounter with mayapple was in 1615 when the French explorer Samuel de Champlain encountered the plants being cultivated by the Huron Indians in modern day Canada. It is believed that the mayapples found in Canada today are there because of Indian cultivation after the last ice age! The Cherokees use the roots in traditional medicine but caution that only those portions of the rhizome between the nodes should be used, as the joints are poisonous. They use boiled root as a purgative, a drop of fresh root juice to cure deafness and powdered root to cure various ulcers and sores. In the 1970's it was discovered to be a cancer treatment,  but the mayapples native to Asian countries have higher concentrations of the constituent used in the treatment.

4 comments:

Steph said...

Oh, yes - fond memories!

Marilyn said...

I always find it fascinating that we have plants such as the mayapples to use for medicinal purposes and yet they were acknowledged until the 1970's for cancer treatment. Those Indians were wise when it came to plant medicines. And yes, they do look like just the perfect umbrellas for fairies.

Angela McRae said...

Never heard of mayapples but enjoyed learning today! I love hearing about the medicinal uses of herbs and wish I knew more.

La Tea Dah said...

How interesting! Loved this post --- as these are flowers that do not grow in our woods here in the PNW. In fact, they grow only on the eastern half of the USA. I just looked up a map and there is a line that cuts the country exactly in half. Little tidbits like that always interest me. ;P