I'm not big on joining blog games or memes and things, but I could have joined the new A-Z one for April with Apples, since it's what I had planned for today anyway.
The thing is... these are Mayapples, one of the latest wildflowers to appear in the woods. And yet... there they were, with their leaves almost open yesterday, the last day of March. This is one goofy year.
This plant has many common names, Mayapple, hog apple, umbrella plant, duck foot, Indian apple, mandrake root, American mandrake, raccoon berry and wild lemon.
It's scientific name is Podophyllum peltatum. There's a message right in the genus name. Podo=foot and phyllum=leaf. If you look at this clump of fully open plants you can see that each leaflet looks sort of like a duck footprint.
All the rest of the pictures were taken in late May 2010, which is much more normal. I thought it would give more continuity to show the stages in one post. Each clump of plants is a single root clone.
Once the leaves open, like an umbrella, one or sometimes two large waxy, white blossoms open under the leaves. They always hang downward. Kind of shy, I guess.
Finally, there is a fruit which is edible if you are careful and lucky. This picture only shows an immature one, not even close to ready to eat. And you don't want to eat them green because they can be poisonous. The fruits grow until they are the size of a very small chicken egg. When they begin to look more yellow than green, you can eat them, and they have a lemony taste. Very yummy.
The trick is that wildlife also find them tasty. Even if you find a big patch of Mayapples, it's likely the apples will all have been eaten before they are ripe. Apparently they are only toxic to humans. They usually don't ripen till June or later. Even if you find ripe ones, I've been told you shouldn't eat a lot of them.
Sorry, I don't seem to have a picture of a ripe Mayapple. I thought I did, but can't find it.
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