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Jack-in-the-Pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum)
In spring a pointed plant containing leaves and a flower emerge from the
Jack-in-the-pulpits Emerging in Spring
The covering unfolds and leaves and a flower that looks something like a green
calla lily emerges. The green or green and brown wildflower has a flap-like
green or green striped with purplish-brown spathe that looks like an oldfashioned church pulpit. The spathe droops at the end and hides the spadix or
preacher or Jack inside.
Jack-in-the-pulpit Flowers and Leaves
There are tiny flowers at the base of the spadix. Staminate and pistillate flowers
are often on separate plants. Some references say that both male and female
flowers can be found on the same plant. Male flowers bear the pollen. The
flowers at the base that look like small green berries are female and those that
look like they are shedding pollen are the male flowers.
Small flies are attracted to the flower and crawl down inside. Perhaps
they follow the stripes to the bottom of the flower, get covered with pollen and
transfer that to female portions of a flower.
Male Jack-in-the-pulpit Flowers
The one or two long-stalked, compound leaves resemble those of the
trillium but the veins are slightly off center whereas those of the trillium are
centered. Young plants have one leaf and mature plants have a pair of leaves
composed of three leaflets. The leaves contain calcium oxalate and are rarely
eaten by animals.
Jack-in-the-pulpit Leaf
The plants can grow to be one to three feet tall.
After the flower has bloomed and been pollinated the spathe and spadix
wither. Female flowers mature into a cluster of green and later scarlet berries.
Seeds fall to the ground nearby and animals disperse others. It takes four years
for a seed to grow and mature into a flower-bearing plant.
Partially Ripe Jack-in-the-pulpit Berries
Ripe Jack-in-the-pulpit Berries
Seeds Inside Jack-in-the-pulpit Berry
At the base of the plant there is a large corm with roots coming from it.
New corms can grow off of it and eventually produce new plants. A large corm
with much stored food can produce two leaves and a female flower the following
year. Smaller corms may produce only one leaf or a plant with a male flower the
next year. A corm that produces a male flower one year may produce a female
flower the next.
Native Americans boiled the corms in several changes of water to remove
the calcium oxalate and then were able to eat them. The plant was sometimes
called the “Indian Turnip”.
Jack-in-the-pulpit Root
Jack-in-the-pulpit Root and Sprout
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