The May Apple does not await the passing of. April showers before preparing to attend May's annual floral festival. But with an air of seeming indifference and independence, as though borne of impatience, it boldly defies the rain with its handsome leaves arranged like a closed umbrella around its slender stalk and which gradually expand as they clear the ground. Excepting their bronzed-green colour, when they have just emerged from the earth, they have much the same appearance as a bit of oily rag after having been forced through a rifle barrel on the end of a cleaning rod. They are popularly known as Umbrella Plants by children who roam the woods in early spring, and they surely deserve this name. The wild Mandrake is an interesting perennial herb with a distinctive, cleancut, and well-balanced appearance. Its single, smooth, round, stiff, fibrous stalk grows from twelve to eighteen inches high, from a long, running rootstock. It is pale green in colour, and its base is sheathed with a dry, tough casing. There are two sets of leaves, one of which, the larger, often measures a foot in diameter, and is borne on a long stem from a rootstcok which produces no flowers. These leaves are smooth and glossy and deeply cleft into seven, eight, or nine long, arrow-shaped lobes which diverge from the stem. They are rather thin-textured, and the colour is dark green above and lighter beneath. The lobes are two-cleft, and they are toothed at the apex. The ribs and veins are conspicuous. The other set of leaves are borne on a separate flowering stalk. They are smaller and similar, and from one to three, usually two, spread from a forked joint between which hangs the pretty, solitary, nodding, waxy-white flower on its short stem. Owing to the large, spreading leaves, the flower might easily be overlooked at first glance. It is two inches broad when fully expanded. The bud case is enclosed in three temporary bracts, and as the petals open the six sepals fall away. The ovate petals are slightly concave, and from six to nine of them form a very pretty saucer-shaped flower. They are thick-textured, and beautifully networked with fine veins. The stamens have prominent yellow anthers, which are arranged in a circle around the large, thick pistil. The blossom has an odour that is neither pleasing nor repulsive. The Wild Lemon gets its name from the large, lemon-shaped yellow fruit, which ripens in July. It also resembles a small yellow, egg-shaped tomato, such as are used for preserving. In some localities in the South, where the hogs are allowed to roam at will, they feed upon this fleshy seed case, and consequently the plant is known by the inappropriate name of Hog Apple. The fruit is sweetish, slightly acid to the taste, has a sickish flavour, and is the only part of the plant that can be eaten with impunity. This plant is not a true Mandrake, although this name is commonly applied to it. The leaves, stalk, and stems of the May Apple are poisonous if taken internally, and these parts should not be placed in the mouth. The root contains powerful medicinal properties that are likely to cause serious effects unless administered by a physician in small quantities. The Latin name is derived from pous, podes, a foot, and phyllon, a leaf, alluding to a fancied resemblance of the leaf to the webbed foot of a duck. The fruit of this species should not be confused with the May Apple of New England which is altogether different. The latter is a curious, pulpy growth occurring upon the Azalea or Swamp Honeysuckle. The Mandrake is more or less common in low, rich woods where the ground is shaded and moist. It ranges from Quebec and Ontario to Minnesota, Florida, Louisiana, and Texas.
MAY APPLE. MANDRAKE. Podophyllum peltatum.