Medeola virginiana is a perennial monocotyledon herb to about 50 cm tall, colonial from a thick white, horizontal, succulent tuber 3-8 cm long, stem 30-70 cm, slender, young stem usually wooly-hairy, persisting at leaf bases.
Leaves in two whorls, the lower one with 5-11 leaves 6-12 cm long, 2-5 cm wide, lance-shaped, widest above middle, pointed at both ends, upper whorl with 3 leaves 3-6 cm long,1-4 cm wide, becoming red at base when in fruit; plants with only 1 whorl of leaves do not bloom.
Flowers greenish-yellow, radially symmetrical, petals and sepals alike 3 each, 0.7 cm long, curling back, stamens purple, longer than petals, ovary superior, stigmas 3, dark red or green, 0.7-1.4cm long, fleshy, horn-like, curved outward; inflorescence of 3-9 flowers each on a slender stalk 1.5-2.5 cm long from top of stem, flower stalks becoming red; blooms May-June, insect pollinated.
Fruit fleshy, dark purple to black, 0.6-0.8 cm wide, 3-parted; 6 seeds, 0.3 cm long; animal dispersed; matures Sept.-Oct. (Radford et al. 1968).
Wetland status: UPL.
Frequency in NYC: Infrequent.
Habitat: Rich, moist undisturbed forest herb layer. Shade tolerant, found growing under American beech.
Notes: Tuber is edible but consuming the tuber destroys the entire plant. Has been used medicinally as a diuretic (Fern 2004).