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Sunday, April 1, 2012

May, er... March Apples

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.

mayapple leaves

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.

mayapple leaves

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.

mayapple flower

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.

mayapple fruit

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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Zenserly said...

I love the way you said.."I thought I did but can't find it."...such an interesting plant...I'll be sure not to eat its fruit :-)

john bain said...

The weather is all over the place here too. Yesterday was very cold. today the forecast is bleak, but they got it wrong. Lovely day out there. So far!

vanilla said...

Interesting article. I learn so much from you. As for eating produce of the wild, I shall leave that to those of you who know what you are doing.

Lin said...

Oh, shoot! I would like to see a ripe one. I've never seen these before.

Pat Hatt said...

Quite the interesting plant indeed, great shots too.

Christine Rains said...

I've always wondered what those plants were. Thanks for sharing and for stopping by my blog. :) Good luck with the Challenge!

T. Powell Coltrin said...

The Mayapple is so interesting. I'd like to taste one, but I've never seen one. Do they grow in Missouri?


Unknown said...

Never heard of Mayapples before--thanks for sharing.

Look forward to your challenge posts...

--Damyanti, Co-host A to Z Challenge April 2012

Twitter: @AprilA2Z

Gail M Baugniet - Author said...

Your lovely pictures reminded me of a hike in the rainforest. You introduced me to a new "apple" also.
I am making the rounds of A to Z Challengers. Theme: A World of Crime

Tonja said...

Very interesting. Thanks for sharing. Glad you signed up. I didn't realize there were 1900. Yikes.

Arlee Bird said...

Great blog. Glad you made it before the list closed.

A Few Words
An A to Z Co-host blog

rainfield61 said...

I have many of such "umbrellas" on my hiking track.

Sharkbytes said...

kulasa- when I do get a picture of a ripe one, I'll share.

John- Interesting that it's bizarre there, too

vanilla- it's not that hard if you ID the plants

Lin- I'll get a pic- either a new one, or I'll remember where I was when I took the other pic

rainfield- do they grow where you are? Or some similar plant?

To all my visitors from the A-Z Challenge- I'm amazed at the traffic already since I signed up almost at the very last minute! Thanks for coming by, and if you become regulars I'll answer all your comments. I don't think I can keep up with individual answers while so many are just passing through.

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