by Jane Scully
During the first week of May, the highlight of the wildflower show has to be the Mayapple. It is one of many wildflowers that hide their flower under much larger leaves, so it has a hidden, almost secret beauty to it. It likes rich woods and damp, shady clearings and is found in many of our county parks.
The solitary, white flower grows in the crotch between a pair of large, deeply lobed leaves. You have to look under those leaves to see the bloom. The flower is about 2 inches wide and has 6 to 9 waxy petals. The leaves can be 1 foot wide, with single leaves without the flower looking a little like an umbrella. The entire plant is 12 to 18 inches high, and can be part of large stands where it is happy in its habitat.
The common name refers to the May blooming of its apple-blossom-like flower. The leaves, roots and seed are poisonous if eaten in large quantities, but Native Americans used the roots as a cathartic.