Robert W. Freckmann Herbarium
University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point

Vascular Plants

Plants of Wisconsin

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  Prairie Folklore

by Wayne Pauly from Dane County Parks ACTION Adult Conservation Team Newsletter (All folklore stories)


Mayapple, Umbrella Plant, Hog apple

Podophyllum peltatum 

Mayapples emerge in spring looking like tightly closed umbrellas which unfold into the green parasols little girls twirled above their heads with many airs and graces.  The ripe lemon yellow fruit appeals more to children than to certain adults who called it hog-apple, while suggesting it was only fit for pigs and little boys.  However, poet James Whitcomb Riley must have liked the flavor because he described the proper way to eat this exotic tasting fruit.

     “And will any poet sing of a lusher, richer thing.

      Than a ripe May apple, rolled like a pulpy lump of gold

      Under thumb and finger tips; and poured through the lips?”

On the other hand, the unripe green fruit smells awful.  An older volunteer associates the stink with his parents first new car 60 years ago.  An envious neighbor squashed unripe fruits on the radiator, and for months afterward, the hot radiator sent the disagreeable smell through the new car (not quite the “new car” smell they had hoped for).

Vascular Plants

Plants of Wisconsin

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