Perennials & Ornamental Grasses

Himalayan may apple: ornamental plant with medicinal effects


The Himalayan may apple is very easy to care for and is ideal as an ornamental plant in the garden. However, medical use is more common.

© rbkelle /

The Himalayan may apple is also known as the Himalayan petal and under its botanical name Podophyllum hexandrum. This plant belongs to the group of the barberry family, which are also known as the buckthorn family. Although this plant is very decorative, the Himalayan may apple is only occasionally found in gardens and parks as an ornamental plant. Rather, the medical application is often in the foreground. The following guide reveals what amateur gardeners should know about this plant.

Home of the Himalayan May Apple

The Himalayan May apple prefers altitudes between 2,000 and 3,500 meters. As the name suggests, this plant can be found in the Himalayan region, among others. Whether in bush forests or on alpine pastures, this protected plant desperately needs humus-rich, acidic, fresh, limestone-free and well drained soil in the following growing areas:

  • Afghanistan
  • India
  • cashmere
  • Nepal
  • Pakistan
  • bhutan
  • Sikkim (State of India)
  • China
  • Taiwan

Description of the Himalayan May apple

Himalayan May Apple (Podophyllum hexandrum)
Growth:Upright, leafy pedicels, clumpy
Height:50-60 cm
Bloom:May to June
Use:Ornamental plant, medicinal plant
Ground:fresh to moist, well-drained, rich in humus

This plant is a herbaceous plant that is characterized by few branches. The Himalayan may apple grows up to a height of 50 to 60 centimeters. The lobed leaves are striking and shine in a bright green. The large leaves of the plant are visually reminiscent of those of the maple. After flowering, red-brown swabs can often appear on the foliage of this plant. Therefore, numerous hobby gardeners also appreciate the foliage for its ornamental value.

The growth width is 25 to 30 centimeters, so that a sufficient distance must be maintained when planting the crop. The shade plant usually has a single-flowered habit with flat, bowl-shaped, spreading flowers.

Location requirements

This plant can be used equally in the perennial border and in open spaces. If a group planting is planned, up to ten specimens of the Himalayan may apple fit on an area of ​​just one square meter. The good frost hardiness also makes the plant interesting for local gardens. Hanging sedge and ostrich gold bulbs are among the planting partners with which the Himalayan may apple harmonises particularly well. If the necessary environmental conditions prevail, the Himalayan may apple requires only a small amount of maintenance from the hobby gardener. The plant can be propagated by its seeds or by a division of the soil sprouts, the so-called rhizomes.

Flower and fruits

The Himalayan May apple blooms from May to June when the flowers, which are less than five centimeters in size, make the plant particularly decorative. The flowers shine pink on the outside and white on the inside. Between July and August the five centimeters long fruits of the plant, which are decorated with an orange-red color, ripen. Even though the may apple bears fruits that are not toxic when ripe, they are not particularly tasty and therefore not edible fruits.

Caution, toxic!

The leaves and rhizomes of the Himalayan may apple are poisonous - © JFBRUNEAU / The growth of the plant is rather slow and the Himalayan may apple is accompanied by a phototoxic effect. This is supposed to mean that there are interactions between the active ingredients of the Himalayan May apple and the sunlight. If the plant sap comes from the crop onto the skin and then comes into contact with sunlight, skin changes are to be expected. Not only the leaves are considered poisonous, but also the soil sprouts. This may be another reason why the mountain plant in local gardens is a rarity.

Planting and care tips


Before planting, it is important to thoroughly moisten the Himalayan may apples. In a sufficiently large planting hole, each plant should be inserted at ground level before the hobby gardener presses the surrounding soil by hand. Thorough and penetrating watering is also important so that the Himalayan may apple grows well and thrives splendidly.


To maintain the mountain plant, it makes sense to divide it every two to three years. In this process, weakening shoots and roots must be removed. Because that strengthens the flower power of the plant. It is advisable to wear gloves when planting and caring for the Himalayan may apple in order to protect yourself effectively against the poisonous effects of the crop.

Diseases and pests are normally not a problem with this plant. This explains why the crop for partial shade and sunny locations is so easy and maintenance-free to maintain.


If the Himalayan may apple is to be propagated, it is advisable to split a particularly large specimen in early autumn. When sowing, all hobby gardeners should know that the plant takes a long time to germinate and that the seedlings are then characterized by slow growth.

Himalayan may apple as a medicinal plant

In addition to the occasional use as an ornamental plant, especially in the shade garden, the poisonous plant, which tolerates cold very well but does not like dryness, is used primarily for medicinal purposes. A resin called podophylline can be obtained from the rhizome of the mountain plant. This ingredient is used to extract a neurotoxin called podophyllotoxin.

In the past, this active ingredient was mainly used as an emetic and laxative. The active ingredient from the Himalayan may apple was also used to treat infected wounds. This agent is also said to inhibit tumor growth. Further studies have shown that the Himalayan may apple active ingredient has proven to be an effective insecticide in the fight against fruit flies. Another animal experiment with mice has also produced amazing results. In this study, the Himalayan may apple extract has been shown to be effective against the effects of gamma rays on the cells of the mice.