Podophyllum peltatum Berberidaceae

Growth habit


Native distribution

Native to the Finger Lakes Region, Eastern and Central North America


A 1-2' tall plant with one or two umbrella-like leaves and a single, nodding, white flower.
Light: part sun to shade
Moisture and Soil: moist to wet soil


Seed Treatment and Storage: remove pulp; keep moist; cold/moist stratify. Only plants with two leaves (older) will flower.

Biocultural value

The fully ripe fruit can be used in marmalades, jellies, and drinks, but the rest of the plant and unripe fruit is poisonous. The Cherokee, Chippewa, Haudenosaunee, Menominee, and Meskwaki ate ripe mayaple fruit fresh or dried. The Meskwaki and Cherokee capitalized on mayapple root's poisonous properties and used it to kill potato bugs and deter crows from eating newly planted corn seeds. Multiple Native American groups also employed the plant as a purgative, cathartic, laxative, and emetic.

Wildlife value

Mayapple flowers are pollinated by bumble bees and other long-tongued bees, which collect pollen and may extract nectar. The larvae of a sawfly, Aglaostigma quattuordecimpunctatum, feed on the foliage. Box turtles eat the ripe fruit, as may small mammals. Most mammalian herbivores avoid the toxic foliage and unripe fruit.



Poisonous description

Mayapple contains the toxins alpha- and beta- peltatin and podophylloresin. Ingesion of mayapple foliage, roots, or unripe fruit or seeds leads to severe purging gastroenteritis accompanied by vomiting. The least poisonous part of the plant is the ripe fruit, although it can have a cathartic effect.


Mundy Wildflower Garden, Coy Glen, Edwards Lake Cliffs Preserve, McDaniel Meadow, Woods, and Swamp, McLean Bogs, Eames Bog, Purvis Road Wetlands Natural Area, Ringwood Ponds, South Hill Swamp, Tarr-Young Preserve

Source of plant

Bluebird Nursery Inc.


Leaves 30-60 cm tall with 5 to 9 deep lobes. Flowers solitary, nodding, creamy-white to pale pink or rose, fragrant, borne in spring. Fruits yellowish, rarely red, also scented.

USDA Hardiness Zone