May 11, 2011

Plant of the month: Mayapple
(with a nod to Trillium and Jack-in-the-Pulpit)

What isn’t blooming in my Wisconsin garden right now? Seriously, because of the cool weather through April, plants that normally wouldn’t peak and bloom at the same time are all popping out at the same time. In any year it would be difficult to pick a plant of the month in southern Wisconsin in May. This year, it’s even tougher.

But for some reason, this year the Mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum L.) has captured my attention. The plants were so cute when they popped out of the ground two weeks ago:

Now the Mayapples, sometimes called American Mandrake or Umbrella Plant, are thriving in the woods out back in a rather large patch:

Mayapple has a fascinating lifecycle:
  • In early to mid-spring, the miniature umbrellas poke through the forest leaf mulch. They look like little buttons from the top. The umbrellas unfurl a few days later and stretch out to form a horizontal shade for the forest understory.
  • In mid- to late spring, the leaf and stem split in half, and white flowers form from small green buds.
  • In the summer, the fruits form and slowly grow into green apple-like fruits.
  • In late summer, they ripen to a yellowish tint, at which point they are edible, although most sources say to eat carefully and sparingly. All other parts of the plant are toxic, including the seeds.
  • In fall, red berries form as the plants die back.

For more information about Mayapples, check out these articles and websites:

Two other plants just hitting their stride in the garden are Trillium grandiflorum

And Arisaema triphyllum (Jack in the Pulpit):

But these photos were taken yesterday and the way things are growing now, the garden looks different every time you look…


  1. You pictured two plants I really miss from my life in Pennsylvania. How we take things for granted when they are plentiful. Here in NY, they exist but are harder to find where I live. Good info on them too.

  2. I was just saying how everything is blooming together this year that normally wouldn' Mayapples are lovely and a fav of mine but I love jack's and trilliums too...lovely photos and lots of info I didn't know about the Mayapples

  3. Great pictures of these woodland plants. I don't see these here, but then again, I don't go out in the woods often, so I'm not sure if they're here or not.

  4. The Mayapples are thick in the forest peserve... thanks for the informations!

  5. Great photos of the Mayapple. I love the first photo especially! Years ago I bought a Mayapple at a native plant sell and when I brought it home to plant I realized my property was full of them. I could have been selling them myself!

  6. I'm jealous of your Mayapple patch. I have one plant that is slowly spreading. Beautiful photo of the jack-in-the pulpit - love that lighting!

  7. Oooo, your Jack in the Pulpit is a week or so ahead of mine. I can't wait to see it in it's full glory! This is the first spring I've had it in my garden. Beautiful!


  8. What a great display of May Apples! You have such a nice group going there. I miss seeing them. We used to have them around our farm in Virginia but I haven't ever seen them in Colorado? Glad you have so much happening in your garden ~ we wait a long time for that, don't we? Enjoy the bounty!

  9. Thanks for telling me about a plant I have never heard about... Fascinating!

  10. How cool that you have such a big area for the mayapples to do their thing! I love your photos, and the trillium and jack in the pulpit are things of beauty, too. I love the light shining through the jack in the pulpit.

  11. That mayapple is spectacular! Please post about the flowers when they arrive? Sounds intriguing... I love Jack-in-the-Pulpit too, it grows in our local woods.

  12. I have a few mayapples but nothing like your community. Great capture on that first shot of the unfurled umbrella. I love the hidden yet large flower and the 'apple'.

  13. It’s another wonderful rainy Spring day, so I’m taking time to look over the Blogs I follow. Wanted to see what you have been up to. I was over to GB this week and there are many May Apples growing in their garden. I don't have them here. As a kid they were always fun to play with. As you mentioned they are also called umbrella plants and that is what we used them as so long ago! As with you it has been a long slow Spring here and today lots of rain and cold. One of these days everything will shoot up. So far mostly daffodils and scilla. I'll check in again soon. Jack

  14. I left a message but don't know if it made it to posting so I will try again. When we were kids we would play with the Mayapples like umbrellas. Crazy memories of that. Here at Lake Michigan I don't have any but you photos brought back great memories of the past. Still not too much blooming here because of the rain and cold. Soon lets hope the warmth will come and I will have more than just daffodils and scilla doing their thing. I'll check in again soon. Jack

  15. To those who commented before the Blogger fiasco: I'll catch up with you through e-mail. Thanks, and sorry your comments were lost in the crash. :(

    @Masha: You're welcome! They show up every year here, but this year seems to have produced a rather robust crop.

    @Sue: Thanks! I keep looking for Morels under them (apparently that's a good place to look), but I haven't found any.

    @Janet: The flowers are forming. They should be blooming a couple of days. They're nifty, too, because they hide under the foliage.

    @Layanee: It seems to be a bigger "crop" this year. Maybe they like a cool, prolonged spring (I don't, but it sure is keeping a lot of things blooming longer). :)

    @Jack: Blogger had a crash a couple of days ago, and things are just starting to catch up now. When you say "GB" do you mean gardens at UW-GB? I'll have to stop over at campus as I have family in the area. I remember Mayapples in the woods when I was a kid, too. I hope your weather warms up soon. You folks by the lake tend to have warmer weather through the fall, right?