The Mighty May Apple

Learn about the unique fruit known as the May apple, includes information about identifying in the wild, beneficial nutritional facts and a medicinal history of the plant.

| July/August 1977

  • A May apple is ripe and ready to eat when the greenish globe turns yellow and/or falls to the ground.
    A May apple is ripe and ready to eat when the greenish globe turns yellow and/or falls to the ground.
    Photo by Freddä Burton
  • A May apple is also known as a young, fertile
    A May apple is also known as a young, fertile "umbrella plant." When mature, the 12 to 18-inch-tall plants bear but one or two large, flat leaves.
    Photo by Freddä Burton

  • A May apple is ripe and ready to eat when the greenish globe turns yellow and/or falls to the ground.
  • A May apple is also known as a young, fertile

Learn about the May apple plant as well as beneficial nutritional facts.

May Apple Recipes

May Apple Punch Recipe
May Apple Preserves Recipe

The Unique Fruit: May Apples

If you've been looking for something really different to spice up your daily menu — a unique fruit, say, with an indescribably exotic flavor that conjures up visions of sunny tropical isles — chances are you won't have to look much further than your own back yard.

Because the mighty May apple bears just such a treat. And if you live anywhere in the eastern half of the United States between Quebec and Florida, you shouldn't have any trouble finding enough of the fruit to make loads of succulent preserves and a gallon or two of the most delicious summer punch this side of the Garden of Eden!

Fortunately for all of us, the May apple (known among scientific circles as Podophyllum peltatum) is one of the simplest to identify of all forest forageables. The species is sometimes called "umbrella plant" or "duck's foot" . . . and it's easy to see why. The mature plant, which bears one or two large (often a foot across) flat leaves centrally attached to either a single or "Y"-branched stem, by gosh, looks like a miniature umbrella. And because its expansive foliage is deeply cleft, some naturalists (the more imaginative ones, anyway) think it resembles — yep, you guessed it — a duck's foot.

The best places to look for May apple plants are moist, open woods and the edges of boggy meadows. Keep your eyes open for a cluster of greenery, rather than lone specimens. Podophyllum peltatum grows from a single underground rhizoid stem which — in very early spring — sends up dozens of finger-shaped shoots sporting young leaves tightly furled around a central stalk. Within a matter of just a few weeks, huge rambling colonies of full-blown specimens twelve to eighteen inches tall blanket entire patches of ground, completely shading (and in effect mulching) the earth from which they've sprung.
7/16/2018 12:39:19 PM

is this may apple good to put on potatoes as a pesticide? When should it be put on potatoes? How to make the pesticide ?

5/20/2016 3:51:09 AM

I just have a question, since may apple is being used to kill some types of cancer and can make a pesticide with it , Is it possible you think to use to kill bed bugs, ants, and roaches to ? Just wondering.

5/31/2015 7:02:56 PM

We've seen these plants every year on our property for the last 15 years and this year is the first one we've noticed the fruit. It's all over the place! I may have to mark and protect it...from the deer and such...and make up some preserves. It sounds luscious!!!



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