May’s apple beauty

The awakening of the May apples is the ever fascinating story of the springtime pleasures in rediscovering nature’s wilderness gardens. May apples thrive amid the fertile woodlands where sunbeams and shadows intermingle. Their large, dark green leaves suggest the form of an expansive duck’s foot – giving rise to our May apples formal title of Podophyllum peltatum.

May apples make their homes in belly flower country, where, by pausing even briefly and looking closely at the sprawl of color, we find beauty almost beyond comprehension. Sheltered from the sun by the shade of a live oak, the forest canopy is met by a large hickory and a black gum.

Emerging from the damp earthen floor, by mid-April their leaves will have quickly unfolded into two large umbrella-like leaves between which a single flower a little larger than a golf-ball unfolds with six white waxy cuplike petals to display a heart of gold. By the time summer rolls around, the flower transforms into a light green, smallish egg-shaped ball ripening into a tawny white fruit.

The entire plant is toxic to humans – but, like the marble statue of Venus de Milo, May apples offer feasting in beauty.