May Apples in My Garden

May 26, 2021


Image1 (2)

Photographer: Dale Hugo 

Summary Author: Dale Hugo 

Our dear neighbor asked my wife if she’d like some of her 'umbrella plants', as she called them. They’re really May Apples (Podophyllum peltatum), a species in the barberry family. In fact, they’re the only member of this group. They’ve grown to spread within the confines of our small garden, where they receive a dose of sunshine in the morning and then deepening shade in the afternoon. They like shade and do well in deep forests, sprouting before the leafy trees in the early spring, and bearing fruit, the apples, in May and June. May Apples flower after about 4 or 5 years; the fragrance of their flower ranges from likable to stinky, dependent upon the person's preference. Box turtles help spread the seeds.

All parts of the plant except the fruit are toxic. The toxin is podophyllotoxin (PPT).This active ingredient can be used as a cream to treat warts. Native Americans used it to treat parasitic worm infections, deafness, snake bite and as a laxative.

Notice that other plants are sprouting around our May Apples. These are peonies that will eventually tower over them, providing them shade.