Top photo: Mayapple patch in early April.

It’s June and mayapples are ripe, or soon will be.

Warning, the whole plant is toxic. Just touching the leaves may cause dermatitis. But, like many toxic native plants mayapple has medicinal uses. A topical treatment for certain skin conditions, as well as other ailments, is derived from the plant.

Mayapples begin to emerge from the moist earth of alluvial woodlands and meadows in March. By April they’re obvious, a big patch of green on an otherwise brown and gray landscape. Their large, paired, lobed leaves rising a foot or so from the forest floor are a welcome sight.

Beneath the umbrella-like leaves stands a single, delicate white flower with yellow stamens. Most folks never see the flowers, you have to turn over the leaves to get a glimpse of the 1-2 inch blossom.

In the shadows, the delicate white flower of mayapple.
Pull back the leaves to reveal flower. If you have sensitive skin use a twig to hold back leaves.

By mid to late April, small green fruit appear where the flower had been. The fruit continue to grow through May, if the local animals don’t get them, and by June the fruit turns yellow and somewhat shriveled. They’re ripe.

Fruit (April 21).
Fruit (May 6).
Leaves begin to fade (May 8).
Leaves turn brown, fruit ripens (June 3).
In a few more days this mayapple will be ripe for the picking (June 4).

The fruit, according to my research, is edible. I’ve never eaten mayapples and don’t think I will. The seeds are toxic and have to be removed before consuming. There are recipes online for making jam or jelly from the fruit. Stated by some, the fruit by itself is supposed to have an exotic, tropical taste to it. I’ll take their word for it.

If you’ve tried it, let me know what you think.

Have a good one,

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