Stems erect, 1 to 1 feet high, from a perennial, horizontal, poisonous rootstock. Basal leaves centrally peltate, often nearly a foot in diameter, long petioled, deeply five to nine-lobed, glabrous or pubescent and light green on the lower surface, darker above; lobes two-cleft and toothed at the apex. Flowering stems appearing from different rootstocks, bearing one to three, usually two, similar leaves (rarely leaflets). Flowers 1 to 2 inches broad, white, fragrant, on stout, nodding peduncles one-half to 2 inches long, appearing from the base of the upper leaf or usually from the fork between the two leaves; sepals six, petallike and soon falling. Petals six to nine, flat, obovate, longer than the sepals; stamens twice as many as the petals. Ovary ovoid, forming in fruit a large, yellowish, ovoid, edible berry, 1 to 2 inches long, the numerous seeds inclosed in fleshy arils within the fruit.

Memoir 15 N. Y. State Museum

Plate 76

May Apple; Wild Mandrake

May Apple; Wild Mandrake - Podophyllum peltatum

In low woods, moist banks and clearings, western Quebec and southern Ontario to Minnesota, Kansas, Florida, Louisiana and Texas. Flowering in May and June.

The fruit is edible and harmless, although somewhat insipid and to many people its taste is disagreeable. Both foliage and root are said to be poisonous and serious results have followed the use of the leaves as greens. The root is a violent purgative, resembling jalap in its action.

Its popular name, Mandrake, relates it in no way to the Mandrake or Mandragora of the ancients and, notwithstanding its poisonous character it is a very respectable herb in comparison with the traditions of the Mandrake of the ancients, described as flourishing best under a gallows, with a root resembling a man in shape, uttering terrible shrieks when it was torn from the ground, and possessing the power of transforming men and beasts.