Photo of mayapple colony looking like numerous green umbrellas on forest floor
Mayapple makes its biggest impression with its leaves, which resemble umbrellas arising from a single stalk.
Skin irritating
Other Common Name
Mandrake; May-Apple; May Apple

Berberidaceae (barberries)


On mayapples, only a single flower develops, and only on plants having 2 leaves. The flower arises from the axil of the 2 leaf stems; it is white, with 6–9 waxy, spreading petals and a green, clublike pistil; flowers can be 3 inches across. A rare pink-flowering form exists. Blooms March–May. The leaves are large, to 1 foot wide, with many deep notches to near the middle of the leaf, the segments with coarse teeth, arising from a smooth stem to 1½ feet tall. The fruit is a “may apple,” egg-shaped, to 2 inches long, pale green to yellow, botanically a berry. Plants with only 1 leaf will not flower or fruit; only plants with 2 or 3 leaves form flowers and fruits.


Height: 1 to 1½ feet.


Photo of a mayapple flower with foliage above
Mayapple (Mandrake) (Flower)

pink mayapple.png

close up of pink mayapple flower
Pink Mayapple
Although mayapples are normally white, a rare pink-flowering form exists.
Habitat and conservation

Occurs in moist or dry, open woods, ledges of bluffs, sometimes persisting in fields and pastures or on roadsides adjacent to woods. Often found growing in small colonies.

image of Mayapple Mandrake distribution map
Distribution in Missouri


Human connections

The leaves, stems, and roots are poisonous but have medicinal use, with one derivative used as a treatment for cancer. The ripe fruits are edible with a pleasant taste and can be eaten raw or made into beverages, jellies, and preserves. Handling rootstocks can cause dermatitis in some people.

Ecosystem connections

The closest relatives of mayapple growing in Missouri are shrubs, including the introduced Japanese barberry (an ornamental that escapes cultivation) and two native barberries that are rarely encountered. Details of flower and fruit anatomy reflect plant relationships better than leaves and stems.