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Word of the Week: Lobate

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Welcome to Word of the Week! Stay tuned for a new word each Friday to amp up your nature vocabulary!

Lobate [ LOH-beyt ] (adjective): Describing something with lobes. In botany, it is often used in reference to the structure of some leaves. Plants with leaf margins that are lobate will have distinct protrusions, either rounded or pointed.

Spring is a time of welcoming back old friends, sometimes only for a short window of time. Mayapple is one of them! A woodland ephemeral (or spring wildflower), they are one of the first plants to come up and unfurl their curious large, dark green, umbrella-like leaves.

Mayapple has lobate leaves margins and will produce two leaves only when it plans to make a special single flower that is white, fragrant, and well-hidden underneath the leaves. In the summer this flower evolves into a yellow, lemon-shaped berry that is a tasty wildlife snack. Thus, another name is ground lemon. But it mainly reproduces from rhizomes – one underground stem that is the single ancestor of many individual plants (clones) in the plant colony.

Mayapple roots, leaves, and seeds are poisonous. But it is also a powerful medicinal herb used for a wide range of diseases including in anti-cancer drugs. Occasionally it is called American Mandrake.

Keep an eye out for Mayapple on your next spring visit to the forests of High Park!