Once you have seen mayapples you will never forget them. The two large leaves of the plant emerge like folded umbrellas in early spring and open to reveal a single white or rose colored flower hidden in their axil. The flower is followed by a large pale yellow berry that is toxic when young but edible when ripe. The leaves are large and the plant stands 18” tall. Mayapples colonize by rhizomes and form dense colonies in open woods, their habitat of choice. During periods of drought they may go dormant but will return the following year. The common name refers to the bloom period, but it is the flower, not the fruit that appears in May. The specific name, peltatum, refers to the ancient Roman shield carried by infantry men, and describes the shape of the leaves.
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Bloom: A single white or rose-colored flower 2” across is borne in the axil of the leaves in May.
Foliage: Each plant produces two dark green large leaves up to 12” across that slowly open as the stem elongates.
Size: 12-18” H x 24-36” spread
Light: Shade to part shade
Soil: Humus-rich, moist to average, slightly acidic
Hardiness: Zones 3-9
Pests and Diseases: None of significance; slugs may damage leaves
Propagation: Root division in fall; seed (sow immediately or provide cold moist stratification)
Companion plants: Virgina bluebells (Mertensia virginica), spring beauty (Claytonia virginica), Solomon’s seal (Polygonatum biflorum), wild ginger (Asarum canadense), and ferns.