May, so it's Mayapple Season
Glenn Nice, Weed Diagnostician, Botany & Plant Pathology,
This year seems to be a
good year for mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum). The common
name mayapple is fitting for this plant, as it generally blooms
in May and then forms a yellow to red berry that, with a little
imagination, can look similar to an apple.
Mayapple is a perennial that generally prefers
the woods. However, this year I have seen several patches
of mayapple growing along the sides of roads in open sunlight.
This perennial is native to the US and easily identified. These
plants generally look like a bunch of umbrellas on the forest floor.
One or two leaves are born on a single stalk, and the leaves have
five to nine lobes. Flowers can be found in the axis of plants
that have two leaves. Flowers are white to cream colored with 6-9
Mayapple is reported to be
a toxic plant. The leaves, stems, roots are not to be taken orally.
It is toxic to cattle, humans, and swine . In the past, mayapple
has been used as a medicinal plant. It has been reported to
have been used as a purgative, a possible treatment for venereal
warts, and to treat constipation . The prescribing of medicinal
plants is like the prescribing of today’s
pharmacuticles, always consult your doctor or a trained professional.
Mayapple is of interest to the pharmaceutical industry, because
the leaves of mayapple are a source of podophyllotixin, a precursor
to the cancer drugs etoposide, teniposide, and etopohos .
1) Cornell University Poisonous Plants Information
Database. Accessed May 7, 2008. [http://www.ansci.cornell.edu/plants/index.html]
2) Krochmal, A., R.S. Walters, and R.M. Doughty.
1971. A Guide to Medicinal Plants of Appalachia. Agriculture Handbook
No. 400. U.S. Department of Agriculture.
3) Bedir, E., M. Tellez,
H. Lata, I. Khan, K.E. Cushman, and R.M. Moraes. 2006. Post-harvest
and scale-up extraction of American mayapple leaves for podophyllotoxin
production. Industrial Crops and Products. Vol. 24 (1), pp. 3-7.
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