Berberidaceae (Barberry) Family
The 19th-century botanist Asa Gray described the flavor of Mayapples ripe fruit as somewhat mawkish, beloved of pigs, raccoons, and small boys.
Plant is an upright, smooth perennial with a rhizome from which new growth emerges; community minded, it forms large colonies. Preferred habitat is woodlands and woodland edges, at roadsides and mixed woods. Distribution is throughout the Escambia region except directly at seashore.
Leaves are opposite on the stem; consisting of a whole part; rounded in shape; lobes deeply parted with segments bearing teeth at the tip. The female plant bears two leaves and a single flower appears at the axil of those leaves. The male plant usually has only one large leaf.
Flowers are solitary on the female plants only, resting between the two leaves; symmetrical in shape; six to nine petals; six sepals; white. Twelve to eighteen stamens that are noticeably yellow. Flowers occur in the spring.
The fruit is a poisonous berry as a juvenile but quite safe when mature.
The alternate name, Mandrake, comes from an Old World plant that has a similar root system but the two are in no way related. The official Mandrake plant is in the Nightshade family.
The common name refers to the apple-blossom-like flower. which usually occurs in May, but when a mild winter occurs, such as is being seen in the southern states recently the flower will be borne much earlier. The root was used as a purgative by Indians and early settlers. The edible ripened fruit is used today for making jams and jellies.