The Mayapple

When I was researching Hal Borland, I came across this little passage about Podophyllumpeltatum, the Mayapple. 

“In a painful time of my life I went often to a wooded hillside where May apples grew by the hundreds, and I thought the sourness of their fruit had a symbolism for me. Instead, I was to find both love and happiness soon thereafter. So to me, [the May apple] is the mandrake, the love symbol, of the old dealers in plant restoratives.”

Mayapple is in the barberry family. These plants contain a toxin used to treat the plantar wart. The Mayapple also goes by other common names like American mandrake, wild mandrake, and ground lemon.

Today, this native perennial is grown as ornamental plants for its attractive foliage and flowers, which bloom in May. It bears an egg-shaped fruit whose common name is “Mayapple,” "love apples," or “American mandrake.” Folklore says the mandrake root is an aphrodisiac.

According to Emma Darwin’s diary, Charles Darwin started taking "pod," an extract or resin from the root of Podophyllum peltatum or Mayapple, on 24 March 1864 - probably using it for his stomach troubles since it was a purgative. But take heed—mandrake is poisonous. 


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