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Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture

Podophyllum (from Tournefort's anapodophyllum, duck's-foot-leaf; from a fancied resemblance in the foliage). Berberidaceae. May Apple. Mandrake (erroneously). Herbs common in rich woods and copses throughout the eastern United States, a colony of which is most desirable for a wild garden. Hardy perennials herbs: sepals 6, petal-like; petals 6-9; stamens as many or twice as many as the petals; pistil 1 (rarely several): berry with many seeds, which are inclosed in fleshy arils.—Podophyllum is a genus of about 5 species,—1 American, 1 Himalayan and 3 from China.

The May apple is one of the most prominent of the native low-growing spring herbs. The "apples" are yellowish egg-shaped fruits about 2 inches long, and have a rather mawkish taste. The leaves are very distinct, being shaped like a round shield with 5 to 7 lobes. The plant has two kinds of leaves, the solitary ones, and the others in pairs. The large centrally peltate leaves have no flower underneath. The flowers are nodding white waxlike cups which spring from the fork of the stem. They have a rather unpleasant smell.

Some parts of the May apple plant are emetic and poisonous. Extract of podophyllum is common in drugstores. For the drug trade, the rhizomes are collected late in summer and dried, the supply coming mostly from the Central States.

The plants are offered by several dealers in hardy herbaceous perennials. They are of easy culture, requiring deep rich soil and partial shade. They are useful only for spring effects, however, as the foliage dies down by midsummer or before. Later-growing vigorous perennials, as Polygonatum giganteum, may be associated with a planting of May apple, to occupy the ground in the later part of the season. P. Emodii requires a moister situation, and some prepare a peaty soil for it. Propagation is by division or by seed. The mandrake of Old World history and romance, is Mandragora. P. versipelle, Hance. A perennial herb, with sts. about 3 ft. high, 2-forked at top, each fork bearing a lobed peltate lf.: fls. pendulous, crimson, in clusters of 12-16 just under mo lvs. China. Intro, into England. B.M. 8154. F.Tracy Hubbard.

The above text is from the Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture. It may be out of date, but still contains valuable and interesting information which can be incorporated into the remainder of the article. Click on "Collapse" in the header to hide this text.

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Podophyllum peltatum
Podophyllum peltatum
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Division: Magnoliophyta
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Order: Ranunculales
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Family: Berberidaceae
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Genus: Podophyllum
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Six species; see text

Podophyllum is a genus of six species of herbaceous perennial plants in the family Berberidaceae, native to eastern Asia (five species) and eastern North America (one species, Mayapple P. peltatum). They are woodland plants, typically growing in colonies derived from a single root.

The stems grow to 30–40 cm tall, with palmately lobed umbrella-like leaves up to 20–40 cm diameter with 3–9 shallowly to deeply cut lobes. The plants produce several stems from a creeping underground rhizome; some stems bear a single leaf and do not produce any flower or fruit, while flowering stems produce a pair or more leaves with 1–8 flowers in the axil between the apical leaves. The flowers are white, yellow or red, 2–6 cm diameter with 6–9 petals, and mature into a green, yellow or red fleshy fruit 2–5 cm long.

All the parts of the plant, excepting the fruit, are poisonous. Even the fruit, though not dangerously poisonous, can cause unpleasant indigestion.

The substance they contain (podophyllotoxin or podophyllin) is used as a purgative and as a cytostatic. Posalfilin is a drug containing podophyllin and salicylic acid that is used to treat the plantar wart.

They are also grown as ornamental plants for their attractive foliage and flowers.

Podophyllum peltatum in flower


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