|Insert is flower of mayapple|
Each mayapple plant begins as a leaf stalk rising from an underground stem called a rhizome. There may be several stems from each rhizome and the rhizomes expand and form colonies of mayapples over time. Each stalk will produce one or more palmate leaves at the top. The leaves consist of 5 leaflets joined at a center point which droop slightly and produce an umbrella effect. Like an umbrella they are folded up as they begin emerging in mid spring and unfurl gradually. The leaves can be 8 inches across and the plant can be 18 inches tall.
If pollinated the flower turns into a small oval fruit which becomes yellow when fully ripe. Ripening happens in mid to late summer. Each fruit has several seeds. Box turtles and some mammals eat the fruits and distribute the seeds. Technically humans can eat very ripe fruit, without the seeds, but care must be taken to not eat too many, as mild poisoning will occur. The fruit is said to taste like over ripened melon. Never eat the seeds, which are poisonous to humans.
Culture of mayapple in gardens
Gardeners can start mayapples from rhizome pieces or seeds. Seeds must be planted directly after removing them from a ripe fruit to get good germination. Rhizomes are generally easy to get started in good conditions. Zone hardiness would probably be zones 4-8.
Two medicines have been made from refined and isolated chemicals from the plant, one for testicular cancer and one for small cell lung cancer and leukemia. You cannot make these remedies at home.