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Toxic parts

The leaves and the roots are very poisonous[1][2][3][4][5].

Edible uses


Fruit - raw, cooked or made into jams, jellies, marmalades, pies etc[1][6][2][7][8][9]. The fruit can also be dried for later use[10]. The fruit should only be eaten when it is fully ripe[11][4][12], the unripe fruit is strongly laxative[9]. Remove the rind[12]. The fruit is very aromatic[12], and has a peculiar though agreeable flavour[9]. Sweet and acid. Do not eat the seeds[4]. In excess the fruit can cause colic[13][14][15]. The fruit is about 5cm long[16].


Material uses

An infusion of the boiled leaves has been sprayed on potato plants to protect them from insects[17]. Other reports suggest that it is insecticidal rather than repellent[18][10]. The root ooze has been used to soak corn seed prior to planting it out in order to prevent it being eaten by crows or insects[10].

Unknown part

Medicinal uses(Warning!)

American mandrake is a most powerful and useful herbal medicine, exercising an influence on every part of the system and stimulating the glands to healthy action[2]. Its greatest power lies in its action on the liver and bowels[2]. It is a gastro-intestinal irritant, a powerful hepatic and intestinal stimulant[2]. Although often used internally in the past, the plant's cytotoxic action makes it an unsafe remedy for internal use[19].

The root is antibilious, cathartic, cytostatic, hydrogogue and purgative[2][3][20][21][22][23][5]. The plant contains podophyllin, which has an antimiotic effect (it interferes with cell division and can thus prevent the growth of cells). It is, therefore, a possible treatment for cancer, and has been used especially in the treatment of ovarian cancer[20][24][21][22][14][23][25]. However, alopecia is said to be a common side-effect of this treatment[25]. The root is most active medicinally in early spring when it is beginning to shoot[2]. The resin, which is obtained from the root[26], is used in the treatment of warts and has been found to be effective against uterine warts that are sometimes experienced in pregnancy[16][5]. It is also used in the treatment of small-cell carcinoma[26]. The root is harvested in the autumn and either dried for later use or the resin is extracted[18]. The whole plant, apart from the ripe fruit, is highly poisonous and should only be used under the supervision of a qualified practitioner[18]. It should not be prescribed for pregnant women[18]. Large doses have been used to commit suicide[17].

A homeopathic remedy is obtained from the fresh root, harvested before the fruit is ripe[27]. This is used particularly in the treatment of diarrhoea[27].


Ecosystem niche/layer

Ecological Functions

Nothing listed.


Nothing listed.


Nothing listed.


Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame. Sow stored seed in a cold frame in early spring. The seed germinates in 1 - 4 months at 15°c. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and grow on in a shady part of the greenhouse for at least 2 growing seasons. Plant them out into their permanent positions in the winter when the plants are dormant. Division in March/April[28].

Practical Plants is currently lacking information on propagation instructions of Podophyllum peltatum. Help us fill in the blanks! Edit this page to add your knowledge.


Prefers a moist peaty soil and filtered light or shade[2][28]. Grows well in a moist open woodland[29][30] and also succeeds under beech trees in a deep moist leafy soil[31]. Succeeds in a pH ranging from 4 to 7[18].

A very hardy plant[2], tolerating temperatures down to -15°c or lower when dormant[32], though the young leaves in spring can be damaged by late frosts[33]. Plants in this genus have excited quite a lot of interest for the compounds found in their roots which have been shown to have anti-cancer activity[23]. There are various research projects under way (as of 1990)[23]. The flower has a foul smell[27].

The plant takes some years to become established[23] but is very long lived in a suitable habitat[31] and can become a vigorous colonizer[33].


Problems, pests & diseases

Associations & Interactions

There are no interactions listed for Podophyllum peltatum. Do you know of an interaction that should be listed here? edit this page to add it.

Polycultures & Guilds

There are no polycultures listed which include Podophyllum peltatum.




None listed.


None listed.

Full Data

This table shows all the data stored for this plant.

Binomial name
Podophyllum peltatum
Imported References
Material uses & Functions
Edible uses
None listed.
Material uses
None listed.
Medicinal uses
None listed.
Functions & Nature
Provides forage for
Provides shelter for
Hardiness Zone
Heat Zone
partial sun
permanent shade
Soil PH
Soil Texture
Soil Water Retention
Environmental Tolerances
    Native Climate Zones
    None listed.
    Adapted Climate Zones
    None listed.
    Native Geographical Range
    None listed.
    Native Environment
    None listed.
    Ecosystem Niche
    None listed.
    Root Zone Tendancy
    None listed.
    Deciduous or Evergreen
    Herbaceous or Woody
    Life Cycle
    Growth Rate
    Mature Size
    Flower Colour
    Flower Type

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    1. ? F. Chittendon. RHS Dictionary of Plants plus Supplement. 1956 Oxford University Press (1951-00-00)
    2. ? Grieve. A Modern Herbal. Penguin ISBN 0-14-046-440-9 (1984-00-00)
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    24. ? 24.024.1 Polunin. O. and Stainton. A. Flowers of the Himalayas. Oxford Universtiy Press (1984-00-00)
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    26. ? Coffey. T. The History and Folklore of North American Wild Flowers. Facts on File. ISBN 0-8160-2624-6 (1993-00-00)
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    28. ? 28.028.1 Sanders. T. W. Popular Hardy Perennials. Collingridge (1926-00-00)
    29. ? Knight. F. P. Plants for Shade. Royal Horticultural Society. ISBN 0-900629-78-9 (1980-00-00)
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    33. ? 33.033.1 Thomas. G. S. Perennial Garden Plants J. M. Dent & Sons, London. ISBN 0 460 86048 8 (1990-00-00)

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