Podophyllum peltatum

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Podophyllum peltatum Arkansas.jpg
Podophyllum peltatum - Köhler–s Medizinal-Pflanzen-246.jpg
Podophyllum peltatum[1]

Secure (NatureServe)
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Order: Ranunculales
Family: Berberidaceae
Genus: Podophyllum
P. peltatum
Binomial name
Podophyllum peltatum
Podophyllum peltatum range map.png
  • Anapodophyllum peltatum Moench

Podophyllum peltatum is an herbaceous perennial plant in the family Berberidaceae. Its common names are mayapple, American mandrake, wild mandrake,[3] and ground lemon.[4] It is widespread across most of the eastern United States and southeastern Canada.[5][6]

Mayapples are woodland plants, typically growing in colonies derived from a single root. The stems grow to 30–40 cm (12 in to 16 in) tall, with palmately lobed umbrella-like leaves up to 20–40  cm (8 in to 16 in) 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 (1" to 2") diameter with 6–9 petals, and mature into a green, yellow or red fleshy fruit 2–5 cm (1 in to 2 in) long.[7]

All the parts of the plant are poisonous, including the green fruit, but once the fruit has turned yellow, it can be safely eaten .[8] The ripe fruit does not produce toxicity.[9]

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. Podophyllotoxin is highly toxic if consumed.

They are also grown as ornamental plants for their attractive foliage and flowers, and they are a larval host for the golden borer moth and the may apple borer.[10]

Though the common name is mayapple,[11] in some areas it is the flower that appears in early May, not the "apple". The fruit or "apple" is usually produced early in summer and ripens later in summer.

Many species of plants have mycorrhizae to assist with nutrient uptake in infertile conditions. Mayapple plants are considered obligately dependent upon such mycorrhizae, although it may also be facultatively dependent upon rhizome age and soil nutrient levels.[12] Plants are commonly found infected by the rust Allodus podophylli, appearing as honeycomb-patterned orange colonies under the leaves, and yellowish lesions on the upper surface.[13][14]

Toxicity and use[edit]

The unripe green fruit is toxic. The ripened yellow fruit is edible in small amounts, and sometimes made into jelly,[15] though when consumed in large amounts the fruit is poisonous. The rhizome, foliage, and roots are also poisonous.[16] Mayapple contains podophyllotoxin,[17] which is highly toxic if consumed, but can be used as a topical medicine.[citation needed]

Mayapple has been used by American Indians as an emetic, cathartic,[18] and antihelmintic agent.[18] The rhizome of the mayapple has been used for a variety of medicinal purposes, originally by indigenous inhabitants and later by other settlers.[citation needed]

Mayapple can be also used topically as an escharotic in removing warts, and two of its derivatives, etoposide and teniposide, have shown promise in treating some cancers.[19][20] Etoposide is among the World Health Organisations's list of essential medicines[21] and it is derived from podophyllotoxin.[22]



  1. ^ 1896 illustration from Franz Eugen Köhler, Köhler's Medizinal-Pflanzen
  2. ^ The Plant List, Podophyllum peltatum L.
  3. ^ "Podophyllum peltatum". Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Agricultural Research Service (ARS), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Retrieved 28 March 2015.
  4. ^ Plants for a Future, retrieved 28 March 2015
  5. ^ "Podophyllum L.". Integrated Taxonomic Information System.
  6. ^ Biota of North America Program 2013 county distribution map
  7. ^ Flora of North America, Vol. 3, Podophyllum Linnaeus
  8. ^ "Mayapple, Mandrake". 31 August 2011.
  9. ^ PubChem. "Podophyllotoxin". pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. Retrieved 2020-04-25.
  10. ^ Bess, James (2005). "Conservation Assessment for the mayapple borer moth (Papaipema rutila (Guenee))" (PDF). United States Forest Service. Retrieved 27 September 2019.
  11. ^ Podophyllum peltatum at USDA PLANTS Database
  12. ^ Watson, M.A. and five others. 2001. The developmental ecology of mycorrhizal associations in mayapple, Podophyllum peltatum, Berberidaceae. Evolutionary Ecology 15: 425–442.
  13. ^ "Puccinia podophyllin Schwein. Mayapple rust". Iowa State University, Ada Hayden Herbarium (ISC). Retrieved 2013-03-16.
  14. ^ Bunyard, Britt A. 2013 "Mayapple Rust Resurrection" FUNGI 6(1): 38–39.
  15. ^ Niering, William A.; Olmstead, Nancy C. (1985) [1979]. The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Wildflowers, Eastern Region. Knopf. p. 418. ISBN 0-394-50432-1.
  16. ^ Blanchan, Neltje (2002). Wild Flowers: An Aid to Knowledge of our Wild Flowers and their Insect Visitors. Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation.
  17. ^ Moraes, R.M., H. Lata, E. Bedir, M. Maqbool, and K. Cushman. 2002. On American Mayapple as a practical source of podophyllotoxin p. 527–532. In: J. Janick and A. Whipkey (eds.), Trends in new crops and new uses. ASHS Press, Alexandria, VA.
  18. ^ a b Ernest Small and Paul M. Catling (1999), "Podophyllum peltatum L. (May-apple)", Canadian Medicinal Crops, NRC Research Press
  19. ^ Brunton LL et al. Goodman and Gilman's The Pharmacological Basis of Therapeutics, chapter: 61. Cytotoxic agents/Epipodophyllotoxins Twelfth Edition ISBN 978-0-07-162442-8
  20. ^ Lewis, W.H. and M.P.F. Elvin-Lewis. 1977. Medical Botany. Plants Affecting Man's Health. Wiley, New York. 515 p. p. 123-124.
  21. ^ "22nd Essential Medicines List". World Health Organization. Retrieved 22 September 2022.
  22. ^ "PubChem". National Library of Medicine. Retrieved 22 September 2022.

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