Chances are that in many woodlands across eastern North America the spring arrival will be announced by colonies of mayapple with umbrella-like leaves sprouting from the woodland floor. The leaves will expand to 20-30 cm across, are deeply divided and bearing one white flower at the axils. Flowers are followed by a large fleshy yellow fruit with brown seeds at maturity. The whole plant is considered toxic, except the fleshy fruits when ripen (hog apple, wild lemon), which are enjoyed by a variety of small animals who are also the principal seed distributors.
Medicinal: The Mayapple has been a staple medicinal plant in the repertoire of the Native Americans, which used it as: boiled roots (laxative), juice of the fresh rhizome (to improve hearing), powdered root (for skin ulcers and sores, purgative). Today, certain chemical constituents of mayapple are formulated into anticancer drugs used in chemotherapy to inhibit the growth of tumors in various types of cancer.
Medicinal use left apart, this is a most desirable woodland plant and you only need a shady corner in the garden to grow it. Because all plant parts, except the fruits, are poisonous, it can even form a very effective, deer resistant groundcover in the shade garden.. You will need to plant quite a few plants though or sow seeds because it doesn’t form a colony too fast.
Germination: seeds cleaned and kept moist after collecting, at room temperature until late fall and then cold/moist, will start to germinate in early spring even if kept in cold storage (at about 4C). This could mean anytime starting February to late March (last date for shipping).