December 13, 2017

Beauty and Brains

Podophyllum hexandrum 'Majus' - Himalayan mayapple

Mark Uchneat Photo | Podophyllum hexandrum 'Majus' - Himalayan mayapple

There is more than just a pretty posy to Podophyllum hexandrum, a perennial herb native to the Himalayas and the source of its common name, Himalayan mayapple. Pictured is P. hexandrum ‘Majus,’ which grows 16 to 20 inches tall and reveals pink cup-shaped flowers in early spring. The shade-loving plant produces a bulbous red fruit that hangs among the brown-marbled leaves. Hardy to Zone 4, mayapple can be grown in most of the state. So what is so special about Podophyllum hexandrum? Turns out that the rhizomes of this attractive little plant contain “podophyllotoxin, which is a precursor of the anticancer drugs etoposide and teniposide.” What a smarty.