American mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum L.) is a rhizomatous herbaceous perennial found in wooded areas of eastern North America and is a source of the pharmaceutical compound podophyllotoxin. To explore the possible domestication of this species, this research examined strategies for establishing mayapple in field plantings using organic mulches. Mayapple rhizome segments were harvested from the wild and transplanted to raised beds in northern Mississippi in Fall 2001. Two types of mulch (pine bark or wheat straw), two depths of mulch (7.5 or 15 cm), and two planting depths (0 or 5 cm) of rhizome segments were examined in a factorial arrangement and randomized complete block design. Data were recorded during spring of 2002 and 2003. Shoot number was not affected by mulch depth, but there was a significant interaction between mulch type and rhizome planting depth. Rhizome segments planted 0 cm deep and covered with straw mulch produced about 30% fewer shoots compared to any of the other treatment combinations. Number of emerging shoots was also affected by year, with a 33% increase in shoots from 2002 to 2003. Total leaf area and total leaf dry weight were not affected by mulch depth, but there was a significant three-way interaction between mulch type, rhizome planting depth, and year. During 2002, treatment combinations were not different, but during 2003 rhizome segments planted 0 cm deep and covered with straw mulch produced less leaf area and leaf dry weight than any of the other treatment combinations. The ratio of sexual shoots to total shoots was affected by year, with a higher ratio of sexual shoots occurring in 2002 than 2003. Grasses established in bark mulch to a greater extent than in straw mulch in 2002, but weed control was excellent for all treatments in 2003. These results indicate that rhizome segments planted 0 cm deep and covered with straw mulch consistently produced fewer shoots with less leaf area and dry mass compared to any other treatment combination. We preferred bark mulch, but we can recommend either bark or straw mulch for the purpose of establishing field plantings of american mayapple in full sun as long as rhizome planting depth is 5 cm. There was no difference between the two mulching depths used in this study; therefore, a mulch depth of 7.5 cm can be recommended because of its lower cost.
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