Appalachia Wildflowers & Trees Of Appalachia

Wild Apricots are Maypops

Wild apricots in appalachia

Wild apricot noun A tall vine (Passiflora incarnata) having large, flesh-colored flowers and smooth, yellow fruit. Same as maypop, passion flower. [1913 Morely Carolina Mts 68 In some parts of the mountains the people call the maypops “apricots” and eat them, though they belong principally to the age of childhood.] 1937  Thornborough Great Smoky Mts 22-23 The strange, symbolic purple passion flower, the former state flower of Tennessee grows in profusion and its fruit is prized by the mountain children who call it wild apricot. 1970 Campbell et al. Smoky Mt Wildflowers 66 Also known as wild apricot and maypop, [the passion flower] is a vine up to ten feet in length. [1971 Krochmal et al. Medicinal Plants Appal This plant…has been used to reduce blood pressure and to increase the rate of respiration.] 1982 Stupka Wildflowers 69 The fruit is a many-seeded berry the shape of a lemon. When ripe it is yellow and edible. The fruit accounts for the alternate names “wild apricot” and “maypop.” 1996 Montgomery Coll. = passion flower, the fruit of which was sometimes made into preserves (Cardwell).

~Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English


May pops grow wild in appalachia

At the end of last summer Chitter had me searching through tall weeds around the edges of Pap’s big garden for wild apricots. We never found one even though they’ve grown there in years past. She did finally find some over the mountain in Pine Log while visiting friends. She saved her some seeds and planted a few of them in the end of one of our tomato beds. As you can see from the photos the girl raised herself some dandy wild apricots.

Wild apricots in appalachia sometimes called maypops
The fruit looks like more of an egg shape to me than the lemon shape mentioned in the definition. Wild Apricots are edible, but there really isn’t much to eat. They sort of remind me of pomegranates-you know how you basically have to suck the good stuff off the seeds.

Pap taught me to call the fruit wild apricots and he had fond memories of eating them as a boy out playing in the fields and woods. If you stomp one with your foot, clap it in your hands, or throw it hard enough at something, the fruit will make a pop sound. I guess that is where the maypop name comes from.



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  • Reply
    Suzanne Hall
    October 15, 2021 at 4:59 pm

    I had no idea that the Maypops could be eaten as a child. When I chopped cotton, those flowers would be out in the fields and on the pasture fences. Then as I got much older, I would see the flowers being sold in flower catalogs. It amazed me how what was a weed in some areas, others had to purchase them. But later on, I was reading a book by Samuel Thayer, where he writes about all the edible plants, and he wrote how he loved the sweet Maypop. He wrote how he could eat 20 a day. Funny, as I read what he wrote, the flowers were growing all over the fence in the back, and were covered with the fruit. I put the book down after learning which ones would be the best to eat, and picked about ten, and brought them back in the house and put them on a plate. I had some that felt like someone had let some air out of, then some that had were yellow, then those in between. The hull of the fruit reminded me of a gourd, when I smelled it, but when I took the spoon and scraped out the seeds, it had a sweet melon smell. I took my first bite, and crunched the seeds like Sam spoke of, and it was so sweet. The next bite I just mushed it around in my mouth and swallowed it like it was an oyster. I ate every one of those Maypops, except for the last yellow one which seemed to be losing it’s taste. I do believe these are the sweetest fruit I have ever eaten. If you have never tried a Maypop, or Wild Apricot, you must go on a hunt and pick a few to see what you think. All those years I missed out on these wonderful fruits while I rode my horse over the dirt roads and fields.

  • Reply
    October 14, 2019 at 10:15 am

    I never heard of Maypops or ate one but I did hear my parents talk of eating wild apricots so that was probably what they were talking about. The flower is beautiful!

  • Reply
    Kay Dallas
    October 14, 2019 at 8:36 am

    I grew up in Miami, FL but my dream of fields of cotton, corn and others finally did come true. But in Miami we had vibes and vines of these and never did anyone tell me fruit was edible,sniff sniff. Good to know.

    Love your stories, posts and travels!!!

  • Reply
    jane childers
    October 1, 2016 at 8:40 pm

    My maypop vine got covered with caterpillars, they were orange with prickes like little sticks on them. I do not like caterpillars. I have a phobia about them. They send me running. However I read where that is the only host for a Gulf Filliary butterfly. Don’t know if I spelled that right. They are very pretty orange black and white. I grit my teeth and let them stay although the vine was growing right at my back steps. There were so many they stripped every leaf. And then they were gone. I found one cocoon on my back railings and that was all. I hope they all crawled off somewhere and made butterflys since I suffered through their childhood as caterpillars. I was proud of myself for not spraying them. I even joined a facebook page all about caterpillars. I never knew there were so many different kinds. Now it’s hard for me to even go outside. We moved to a new place one time and there was a Catapla tree in the yard. I loved the pretty white flowers. But one day the pretty white flowers were gone and replaced with hundreds of green and black worms. i was going outside to hang out my clothes and saw that they were all over the ground. The only thing I had to try to kill them was a can of silver paint. So there I was in front of my new neighbors spraying silver paint all over my backyard. I finally gave up, threw my basket of wet clothes on the ground and went in and locked the door. When my husband came home from work I told him he had to cut the tree down. He didn’t want to, said they were good fish bait. I lectured him about how he knew i was afraid of them before we got married and if he didn’t cut that tree down I was leaving and taking the kids. The next morning I looked out and the tree was gone. He threw it over the back fence. But do you know a few years later that tree had grown up behind the fence. It was far away though that I didn’t have to see it. Where I live now there is a huge tree in our pasture. I stay clear of it and if I mow I don’t mow there. Do you have those trees where you live? Oh i forgot to mention that my little daughter picked some off and called them her little honey snakes. I don’t believe she belongs to me. Probably got mistaken with my baby and sent home with me. But I get even, she is terrified of spiders.

  • Reply
    Glenda C. Beall
    September 29, 2016 at 1:49 pm

    We called them Maypops down in south Georgia where I grew up and they grew all over the farm. Mother told us not to eat them. she thought they would make us sick. I loved the flowers and liked to pop the fruit. I have some passion flower tea and wonder if it is made from this plant. It is supposed to be calming. Great picture of the plants.

  • Reply
    September 28, 2016 at 9:04 am

    Those beautiful flowers look so tropical and exotic to me!
    I wonder if this is the same – or maybe a relative – to the plant that produces passionfruit? When I was in Puerto Rico a couple of times for work at the Caribbean National Forest, I became addicted to the local passionfruit juice, or “parcha,” and adding Puerto Rican rum just made it that much more refreshing after a day in the steamy forest. Haven’t had pure passionfruit juice in many years, but just thinking about it I swear I can smell it right now! Isn’t memory a wonderful thing 🙂

    • Reply
      Jen Oliver
      July 13, 2021 at 5:37 pm

      Yes, it is the same. Passion flower, passion fruit, Maypop, wild apricot…you’re right!

  • Reply
    September 27, 2016 at 8:55 pm

    As boys we would use them as hand grenades when we would play Army Men.. As they started to dry out and get kinda yellowy we would suck the seeds all tho they were sour..

  • Reply
    Rev. RB
    September 27, 2016 at 8:30 pm

    Very interesting!!!
    I’ve seen the passion flower many times, but I don’t recall ever seeing or tasting their fruit.
    God bless.

  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    September 27, 2016 at 6:32 pm

    and Ed…However much I appreciate the sentiment about the vote on he rifle. we really don’t need them, we have “ducks that pull trucks” !! GO VOLS!
    Thanks Tipper,
    PS That is sort of an inside joke, for those that didn’t keep up the “trash talk” between Tennessee and Florida before the game last Saturday! HA Yes, we finally won after a 11 straight year dry spell.
    GO VOLS!

  • Reply
    September 27, 2016 at 2:39 pm

    My daddy knowed how to keep me and Harold out of trouble. About every night he’d take us posseum hunting above the house. As we’d wait on the 4 fiests to tree, me and Harold would eat those wild apricots up in the field. Ole Andy, (daddy’s pig) usually went with us and he’d stay pretty close by until the dogs treed. We tried to get that thing to eat Apricots but didn’t have any luck, he must’ve thought they were little cucumbers.
    I enjoyed your writing today, and all the comments, brought by some good memories.

  • Reply
    September 27, 2016 at 12:22 pm

    Maypops gave us endless pleasure when I was a kid. Along with the fun of popping them, we plucked the flowers and made ballerinas. We carved the green pops into baby carriages and all sorts of play things. Maypops, some toothpicks, a jackknife and imaginations gave us lots of fun.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    September 27, 2016 at 11:58 am

    Back when I was still alive the wild maypops used to grow across the road. The mailman was usually the only car that traversed the road but that would be enough to put a stop to their progression. I remember dragging the vines down alongside the routes so that the tires wouldn’t crush them. The mailman usually ran about 11:00 AM so ever day, except Saturday and Sunday, during maypop season, I would have to check on them before then. Seems a lot of trouble to pamper a little fruit until it was big enough to put on the ground and stomp. I didn’t know then how wild and exciting the outside world was and wish I didn’t know now.
    PS: I did a little reading (imagine that) about the Wild Passionflower being the state flower of Tennessee. Seems in the early part of the 20th century the flower was selected in a vote by the children of the state to have that honor. The State Legislature was miffed at being left out and voted the Iris in its place.
    In defense of the present Tennessee Legislature though, “The Barrett M82/M107 was designated Official State Rifle in February 2016 by House Joint Resolution 231.” GO VOLS!

  • Reply
    Pam Danner
    September 27, 2016 at 11:32 am

    Passion flowers are really beautiful. We used to grow them when we lived in Florida, boy how they vine and spread, the flower has a light smell too.

  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    September 27, 2016 at 11:27 am

    Another thing,
    Tipper, maybe you could print the story about how the Passion Flower got it’s name. I was told by my grandmother years ago.
    Thanks Tipper,

  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    September 27, 2016 at 11:22 am

    We always called the fruit of the Passion Flower wild apricots. My parents from Madison county area also called them wild apricots. I know a lot of folks do call them Maypops. They do sometimes (pun intended) “may-pop” if you are walking in a field and step on one. Of course that depends on the size and ripeness of the fruit. I love them when they are yellow ripe and the fragrance is intoxicating. I just want to take a big bite out of it, but by then it is a bit mushy inside as I remember and also full of seeds. We used to bring the just before too ripe ones in the house and put in a bowl much like folks do plumgrannies! ha They won’t last, a day or so as I remember, because by the time the fragrance wafts in the air they are nearly over-ripe and will draw critters!
    Also Don, me and my brothers and neighbor children had many a (maypop) fight on a lot that usually didn’t grow anything (THEY SAID) but ragweed, goldenrod and Maypops…ha However, I thought it was the most wonderful field overflowing with wild flowers.
    I never got the jest of the name Maypop for this fruit, like I said we called them wild apricots. The fruits where we lived didn’t ripen until late Summer and early Fall, why Maypop!
    Well, I researched it and on the coastal regions it blooms and fruits earlier. The name comes from a derivative of an Indian name for the fruit! Can’t remember the whole thing!
    Loved this post, beautiful Maypop Tipper.

  • Reply
    Cheryl Soehl
    September 27, 2016 at 11:21 am

    These used to grow wild on the side of my house. I love the flowers and have wished for them to come back. Since everything is available online, perhaps I will order some seeds to plant next spring. Here in South Carolina, we called them maypops growing up, but I much prefer the name passion flower.

  • Reply
    Wanda Devers
    September 27, 2016 at 10:22 am

    Beautiful plants & blooms! I haven’t seen any in many years but remember popping them and eating them when we were children.

  • Reply
    Don Casada
    September 27, 2016 at 10:16 am

    I don’t know if I ought to admit this, but I guess the statute of limitations has long since passed….
    When I was a boy, two or three years ago, we had a pasture out from the house which was full of wild apricots. We called them hand grenades and treated them that way – although when we threw them at each other it was a full tilt baseball throw instead of a lob. If you got hit, you were “dead.” It didn’t hurt (might sting just a little) at all because they were so light.
    But when the New Road (which is what I still call it, close to 60 years later) was put in, the pasture ended with a steep bank down to the road below. The combination of abundance of apricots, broom sage to hide in and vehicles passing 40 or 50 ft below us was just too great a temptation. We’d pick and stockpile a bunch of them then hunker down near the top of the bank. When a car came along, well, you know what happened.
    We got to where we could judge speed and distance well enough to have a strike success rate of over 50%. But I recall the day when we decided to call it quits. A State Highway Dept. dump truck came lumbering down the road and we had a double hit – both of them landing squarely on the windshield.
    You know, a dump truck’s brakes are made to handle stopping when it’s fully loaded – and this one was empty. That thing came to a screeching, jarring halt and out piled an enormous fellow who looked up and hollered “I’m going to catch me some boys and wring their necks like a chicken.”
    Well there’s no way he could’ve seen us tucked down behind the broom sage, but we sure enough heard and saw him. After he got back in and left, we decided that throwing hand grenades was growing old and it was time to switch to shooting marbles.

  • Reply
    September 27, 2016 at 9:48 am

    Chitter did well. Wonderful that your girls are into so many outdoor interests. That is something I would like to do.

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    September 27, 2016 at 9:44 am

    We call them passion flowers and Maypops. The interesting thing about them to me was that when ripe they look rotten. I think a jam would be good.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    September 27, 2016 at 8:29 am

    My Dad called them maypops. I have them come up in my garden and if they are near the fence I let them grow. I guess it is fair to say I am interested in any wild edible. I like the tart taste of maypops except they can have a little bit of a brassy aftertaste. I think the juice would make a good lemonade substitute.
    Good job Chitter on saving the seed and growing your own. I am about to think you have a green thumb and are a plant person. It was that kind of interest that led me into forestry and I cannot lose it if I tried.
    By the way, on another subject, I did find online the 4 verse version of “I’ll Fly Away”. I’m still surprized that Neal and Claudel McKenzie did not include that version in “Songs of Faith”.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    September 27, 2016 at 6:36 am

    I’ve seen those Tip, but don’t ever recall eating them. The flower is stunning. I’m guessing Chatter wants to use them in the creams and things she’s making.

  • Reply
    September 27, 2016 at 6:05 am

    One of my earliest happy SC memories is of a country church homecoming picnic, where my dad and his brother were running around like little boys, having a maypop “fight”. I guess they were in their early 20’s.

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