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Podophyllum peltatum - L.

Common Name American Mandrake, Mayapple, Ground Lemon, Mandrake, Mayapple
Family Podophyllaceae
USDA hardiness 3-9
Known Hazards The leaves and the roots are very poisonous[1, 4, 19, 62, 222].
Habitats Moist soils in rich woods, thickets and pastures[43, 130].
Range Eastern N. America - Southern Maine to Florida, west to Texas and Minnesota.
Edibility Rating    (2 of 5)
Other Uses    (2 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (4 of 5)
Care (info)
Fully Hardy Moist Soil Full shade Semi-shade
Podophyllum peltatum American Mandrake, Mayapple, Ground Lemon, Mandrake, Mayapple

Podophyllum peltatum American Mandrake, Mayapple, Ground Lemon, Mandrake, Mayapple


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Bloom Color: White. Main Bloom Time: Early spring, Mid spring. Form: Upright or erect.

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of flower
Podophyllum peltatum is a PERENNIAL growing to 0.3 m (1ft) by 0.3 m (1ft in) at a medium rate.
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 4 and is not frost tender. It is in leaf from April to October, in flower from May to June, and the seeds ripen from July to August. The species is hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs). The plant is not self-fertile.
Suitable for: light (sandy) and medium (loamy) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: mildly acid and neutral soils and can grow in very acid soils.
It can grow in full shade (deep woodland) or semi-shade (light woodland). It prefers moist soil.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map



Woodland Garden Dappled Shade; Shady Edge; not Deep Shade;

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Fruit
Edible Uses:

Fruit - raw, cooked or made into jams, jellies, marmalades, pies etc[1, 2, 4, 43, 101, 183]. The fruit can also be dried for later use[257]. The fruit should only be eaten when it is fully ripe[55, 62, 95], the unripe fruit is strongly laxative[183]. Remove the rind[95]. The fruit is very aromatic[95], and has a peculiar though agreeable flavour[183]. Sweet and acid. Do not eat the seeds[62]. In excess the fruit can cause colic[22, 65, 159]. The fruit is about 5cm long[200].

References   More on Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.
Antibilious  Cancer  Cathartic  Cytostatic  Homeopathy  Hydrogogue  Purgative  Warts  
Women's complaints

American mandrake is a most powerful and useful herbal medicine, exercising an influence on every part of the system and stimulating the glands to healthy action[4]. Its greatest power lies in its action on the liver and bowels[4]. It is a gastro-intestinal irritant, a powerful hepatic and intestinal stimulant[4]. Although often used internally in the past, the plant's cytotoxic action makes it an unsafe remedy for internal use[254]. The root is antibilious, cathartic, cytostatic, hydrogogue and purgative[4, 19, 46, 57, 64, 124, 222]. The plant contains podophyllin, which has an antimiotic effect (it interferes with cell division and can thus prevent the growth of cells). It is, therefore, a possible treatment for cancer, and has been used especially in the treatment of ovarian cancer[46, 51, 57, 64, 65, 124, 244]. However, alopecia is said to be a common side-effect of this treatment[244]. The root is most active medicinally in early spring when it is beginning to shoot[4]. The resin, which is obtained from the root[207], is used in the treatment of warts and has been found to be effective against uterine warts that are sometimes experienced in pregnancy[200, 222]. It is also used in the treatment of small-cell carcinoma[207]. The root is harvested in the autumn and either dried for later use or the resin is extracted[238]. The whole plant, apart from the ripe fruit, is highly poisonous and should only be used under the supervision of a qualified practitioner[238]. It should not be prescribed for pregnant women[238]. Large doses have been used to commit suicide[213]. A homeopathic remedy is obtained from the fresh root, harvested before the fruit is ripe[232]. This is used particularly in the treatment of diarrhoea[232].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses


An infusion of the boiled leaves has been sprayed on potato plants to protect them from insects[213]. Other reports suggest that it is insecticidal rather than repellent[238, 257]. The root ooze has been used to soak corn seed prior to planting it out in order to prevent it being eaten by crows or insects[257].

Special Uses

Food Forest  Scented Plants

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

Landscape Uses:Ground cover, Woodland garden. Prefers a moist peaty soil and filtered light or shade[4, 111]. Grows well in a moist open woodland[28, 31] and also succeeds under beech trees in a deep moist leafy soil[130]. Succeeds in a pH ranging from 4 to 7[238]. A very hardy plant[4], tolerating temperatures down to -15°c or lower when dormant[187], though the young leaves in spring can be damaged by late frosts[233]. Plants in this genus have excited quite a lot of interest for the compounds found in their roots which have been shown to have anti-cancer activity[124]. There are various research projects under way (as of 1990)[124]. The flower has a foul smell[232]. The plant takes some years to become established[124] but is very long lived in a suitable habitat[130] and can become a vigorous colonizer[233]. Special Features: North American native, Naturalizing. The plant is heat tolerant in zones 8 through 2. (Plant Hardiness Zones show how well plants withstand cold winter temperatures. Plant Heat Zones show when plants would start suffering from the heat. The Plant Heat Zone map is based on the number of "heat days" experienced in a given area where the temperature climbs to over 86 degrees F (30°C). At this temperature, many plants begin to suffer physiological damage. Heat Zones range from 1 (no heat days) to 12 (210 or more heat days). For example Heat Zone. 11-1 indicates that the plant is heat tolerant in zones 11 through 1.) For polyculture design as well as the above-ground architecture (form - tree, shrub etc. and size shown above) information on the habit and root pattern is also useful and given here if available. The plant growth habit is a runner spreading indefinitely by rhizomes or stolons [1-2]. The root pattern is fibrous dividing into a large number of fine roots [1-2]. The root pattern is rhizomatous with underground stems sending roots and shoots along their length [1-2].

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

Temperature Converter

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Plants For A Future have a number of books available in paperback and digital form. Book titles include Edible Plants, Edible Perennials, Edible Trees, and Woodland Gardening. Our new book to be released soon is Edible Shrubs.

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Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame. Sow stored seed in a cold frame in early spring. The seed germinates in 1 - 4 months at 15°c. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and grow on in a shady part of the greenhouse for at least 2 growing seasons. Plant them out into their permanent positions in the winter when the plants are dormant. Division in March/April[111].

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

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Found In

Countries where the plant has been found are listed here if the information is available

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status :

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Podophyllum pleianthum Perennial0.3 -  LMFSM23 
Podophyllum versipelle Perennial0.3 -  LMFSM23 

Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


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