If you have read the books or seen the series of movies of Harry Potter and his introduction into magic, you may remember the class where they are learning about the magic of plants. This has stimulated a little lesson plan for when my 10-year-old comes to visit this summer. I have a volunteer Podophyllum peltatum L. growing at the edge of my woods. It has common names such as Mayapple, Devil’s Apple, Hog-apple, IndianApple, American Mandrake, American May Apple,Racoonberry, and Wild Lemon.
In the book Harry takes a class on how to transplant the mandrake root, which (in actual folklore) has the reputation of screaming so loudly that it will drive humans permanently mad.
It is called May Apple because it blooms in May...duh!
It grows in shade areas rich with humus and seems to spread by runners, but I also understand you can grow it from seed (which I may try next year.) Since my plants grow in a rather innocuous place where an aggressive weed-eater or lawn mower can damage them, I have enclosed the area with a knee-high plant support fence! I may top dress it with more humus laden stuff this fall. Other than that, I do nothing for this plant. It is hardy and is found on woodland walks if you look carefully.
The simple flowers hide beneath those large palmate leaves, so you have to stick your nose down to see them. Later they form an edible fruit, and I hope to remember to take a photo of that when I return from my trip if the fruit is still handing around.
According to botanical articles the plant is poisonous in some parts, used by herbalists with other, and the fruit itself is edible and was eaten by the American Indian. Here it probably is eaten by my box turtles!
Check out your yard because it grows in many areas and there is a version on the European continent as well.