Podophyllum peltatum

Podophyllum peltatum
Podophyllum peltatum
Photo Courtesy Renee Brecht
Britton & Brown
Botanical name: Podophyllum peltatum
Common name: mayapple
Group: dicot
Family: Berberidaceae
Growth type: forb/herb
Duration: perennial
Origin: native
Plant height: 12-18"
Foliage: up to 1' across; palmately lobed, cleft, denatate on margins. 5-9 lobes per leaf that are deeply divided; leaves are glabrous. Rhizotamous.
Flower: white; fruit is an ovoid fleshy yellow berry, occuring only when cross-pollination occurs, 2" across
Flowering time: April - mid-May; fruits mature August, usually after the foliage has perished.
Habitat: well-drained, rich, moist, shadedground of deciduous woods and edges
Range in New Jersey: statewide outside the central Pine Barrens
Heritage ranking, if any: n/a
Misc. Some plants are branched with a pair of leaves, "forks"; others are unbranched and produce only a single leaf on a long stalk, rather resembling an umbrella.

When ripe, the fruit is edible; the rest of the plant is highly toxic (podophyllum). This toxin is used in treating skin cancer by inhibiting cell growth.  Berries are eaten by box turtles and possibly by opossums, raccoons, and skunks, as well as squirrels, white-footed mice and common grackles. Box turtles are known to be a dispersal agent for the seeds by consuming the fruit and dispersing the seeds after digestion.

Native Americans used the plant for liver ailments, rheumatism, and as an insecticide.