Along the trail

Along the trail in the woodland preserves of Southeastern Pennsylvania, a sea of mayapple covers large areas of the woodland forest floor.  The mayapple grows in colonies, spread by a single root with stems rising up from the underground rhizome.  All parts of this plant are poisonous except for the ripened fruit.  A single flower blossoms in May with the fruit developing and ripening in late summer.  The colony of plants depends on a symbiotic association with mycorrhiza (a fungus)  that colonizes the roots.  The fungi breaks down the forest floor debris providing the mayflower with  organic compounds necessary for growth.  These complex colonies are important to the soil life and chemistry needed to sustain woodland growth and life.


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