This section is from the book "A Guide To The Poisonous Plants And Weed Seeds Of Canada And The Northern United States", by Robert Boyd Thomson, H. B. Sifton. Also available from Amazon: A guide to the poisonous plants and weed seeds of Canada and the northern United States.
Other Common Names: Mandrake, Umbrella-plant, Devil's Apple, Vegetable Calomel, Wild or Ground Lemon.
This plant contains podophyllin, a bitter resinous substance used in medicine as a purgative, over-doses of which have proved fatal. It is very bitter when fresh and so produces few cases of poisoning, although it is very plentiful. The ripe fruit contains very little if any of the drug. It has a sweetish, slightly acid taste and makes a delicious preserve.
A native of North America, the plant grows plentifully in parts of Quebec and Ontario and south to Florida and Texas, in open woods and the shaded parts of pastures. The underground rootstock is perennial and from it arises the erect stem, a foot or so in height. From the top are given off two fleshy petioles, bearing large umbrella-shaped leaves, deeply lobed and notched. The pearly white flower grows from the fork. The ovoid fruit is from one to two inches long and turns yellow when ripe.