(Top photo courtesy of Arlene Macmillan. Bottom photo from Lake Forest University's Environmental Studies page)

The Turtle and the May Apple

I just learned this past summer that May apple germination works best if the seed passes through a box turtle first! On a walk through a garden at the Goodwin State Forest, my guide also pointed out that May apples are just the right height for these creatures.
Subscriber Arlene, from up on Hemlock Hill not too far from me, sent pictures from her lawn with the announcement “May apples are up.” So far, they’re just some rather droopy looking clusters, but Arlene hopes to send me more pictures when they bloom, and then when the apples appear.
I was tickled to read advice from the Brooklyn Botanic Garden on how gardeners can support box turtles, who, according to the article “find themselves increasingly marooned in a sea of suburbs.” I may have to look into planting some of the foods they can’t resist. Besides May apples, they like elderberries, blackberries, and summer grapes. And they like leaf litter and, of course, moisture. We have plenty of both here.
The Botanic Garden writer noted that meeting up with an Eastern box turtle “almost always leaves a good impression.” True,--have you ever met a box turtle you didn’t like? My penchant for these creatures may be a good motivator for my gardening efforts, which lean heavily toward lackadaisical.
Arlene said a ton of May apples sprouted, and have been sprouting ever since, from just one that a friend supplied more than 30 years ago. Maybe she had some help from saurochory. Not to be confused with sorcery (although it can seem kind of magical), saurochory is the dispersal of seed by reptiles.      

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