Thursday, April 7, 2016

Goldenseal or Mayapple?

She was teaching me although I had taught myself it was a Mayapple: "Goldenseal," she said, pointing to a plant that looked like a Mayapple. Since then I've always doubted myself. Goldenseal (Hydrastus canandensis) or Mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum)?

Decided today to settle it: This is the Divine Woods paved in jungly little ankle-high Mayapples, not Goldenseal. Both look like green umbrellas, are perennial and grow in colonies, but Goldenseal, a relative of the buttercup, has a bloom in the top center that becomes a reddish fruit resembling a raspberry; Mayapples have one white flower that becomes a single drooping ovoid yellow fruit beneath its flirty lingerie of leaves. Animals eat the Mayapple fruit; people get poisoned if they eat more than a little. The rest of the plant is otherwise intensely poisonous, especially the root.

Goldenseal is an endangered wild plant because folks rip it up from the earth to make a powder they say will let you ace your drug test. That is untrue. It too can be toxic. The Indians used it as a medicine but they knew what they were doing.

Both Mayapple and Goldenseal all pop up from one single underground stem. It might take years to establish Mayapple colonies as extensive as these. Colonies indicate that fertile earth lies beneath. Now I can relax, feeling sure of myself.

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