Friday, April 30, 2010
This pretty little pink flower is the bloom of the Mayapple. They grow throughout Eastern North America in wooded areas. This one was photographed in St. Joseph on the walking trail at my work. While hiking with a group of children I discovered them in bloom. I've hiked this trail for 6 years, in all seasons and this is the first time I was lucky enough to see the blooms. Shows that being in the right place at the right time is what making discoveries is all about. After doing some research I discovered that this pink bloom is rare for Mayapples, they usually have a white to off-white bloom. I am excited that I was able to see pink ones!
This plant goes by many different names, and it probably depends upon where you live as to what you call it. Some of the more common names are Hogapple, Indian Apple, Umbrella Plant (from the shape of the leaves), Wild Mandrake, Wild Lemon (from the taste of the fruit), and Devil's Apple.
Once established they seem to be prolific. The woods at work are abundant with them, I usually pick one to show the kids up close and then ask them to image that it is natures own umbrella. Think of all the little critters that might find shelter under it's leaves during heavy rains...i.e. mice, insects, etc. They just laugh at the absurdity of the picture they get in their minds. Personally I like the notion that little creatures "might" hunker down under the leaves of this unique plant and wait out a spring storm.
Although the "apple" on this plant is edible it is reported to taste rather bitter. Raccoons seem fond of it and are sometimes seen sampling the berry....which is where this plant derives another common name of "raccoon berry". The root of the plant is poisonous and can cause inflammation of the skin and eyes. Shawnee Indians would boil the root to make a strong laxative. There are two medications on the market today, one called podophyllin that is used as a strong cathartic, the other is peltatine that is being used as an experimental drug to treat some cancers.
Rumor has it that any woman who pulls up the root of this plant will soon become pregnant. I say leave it be!