HerbDoc has some thoughts on one of her favorite natives:
My favorite native plant, Mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum) has fully opened its leaves and carpeted the rear of the herb garden. Two weeks ago the plants resembled tiny furled umbrellas, and they will soon be in bloom. Each mayapple has a single white flower, which is followed by a small red fruit.
Although some people use the mature fruit to prepare jellies and juices, the entire plant, including roots, seeds, leaves and raw fruit is quite toxic. When my children were small I kept them away from the plants by telling them that leprechauns lived under the green umbrellas and could be frightened away by a lot of movement. It had the added advantage of keeping the boys quiet as they were always trying to sneak up and catch a glimpse of the elusive leprechauns!
Early records show that Native Americans often used the entire plant to prepare insecticides, and early American ethnic groups drank a remedy from the dehydrated rhizomes as a laxative and to cure intestinal worms.
Interestingly the main ingredient in “Carter’s Little Liver Pills” was also the mayapple.
More recently researchers have found that podophyllotoxin, the fatal ingredient in the herb, stops cell division, and the FDA has approved two drugs for use with various types of cancer.
All of this aside, it is a beautiful little ground cover which always signals spring to me. It is very easy to grow and since it is native to the woodlands, likes some shade and a moist, well-drained soil. It has rhizomes that are pencil thin but can travel about six feet in good soil. Its only disadvantage is that it tends to die back when the weather becomes really hot in late summer.