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Flora, Fauna, Persona
the art & writing of Desirée Isphording
Jack-in-the-Pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum) 
5th-May-2005 01:50 pm
It's has been a while since I've actually posted some of my own photography (this is partly due to the fact that it's been a few months since I've had film!). Getting back to one of my original objectives in the creation of this journal, which was to share images and information on my local flora and fauna, I've decided to post on one of my personal favorites, the Jack-in-the-Pulpit.

�copyright DJI 2005I actually feature this plant in one of my paintings, Deer Woman, where it adorns the faery's up-swept hair. It used to be fairly common on our property especially on the land where our septic mound is currently. However, after we built the house some eight years ago I no longer noticed any in the vicinity until last fall when I photographed a brilliant cluster of red berries, which turned out to be the plant's fruit {see image at bottom of entry}. So when this spring came around I eagerly searched the area where I had found the berries to see if that particular Jack-in-the Pulpit had sprouted again, but it had not. I was thrilled though to find that another flowering Jack-in-the-Pulpit was growing in a different spot at the edge of the yard, and since I didn't have film to photograph it with my camera, I borrowed my mom's digital camera and shot the image seen in this entry {see image at left}. I really would have liked to get some better photos of Bloodroot in bloom, but unfortunately due to my busy schedule as of late I missed out :(

Jack-in-the-Pulpits are members of the Arum family (Araceae), making them relations of such species as Skunk Cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus) and Water Arum (Calla palustris), a plant featured in another of my pieces:Twilight Song of the Swan Maiden. Alternate names include Indian Turnip, Wake Robin, Brown Dragon, Bog Onion, Devil's Nip, and Wild Turnip. They are easily recognized by their striking green flowers which somewhat resemble that of the calla lily. The flower consists of a spathe (i.e. the "pulpit" referred to in the plant's name) which curls around, envelops, and also arches over the central, club-like structure known as the spadix (i.e. the "Jack"). They can be found along most of the eastern coast of Canada and the United States;from southern Quebec and New Brunswick down to Florida, ranging westward to Louisiana and eastern portions of Texas. They seem to prefer shady, damp environments.

Depending upon your resources, there is either a single species of Jack-in-the-Pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum) with three variations/subspecies, or there are three distinct, but related species. If one accepts the latter approach, the three species (or subspecies, if you accept the former) are as follows:
1) Woodland Jack-in-the-Pulpit (A. atrorubens) typically has two leaves, each of which consist of three leaflets. These leaves are a shade of grey-green beneath. This variation is quite common in woods and swamps.
2) Swamp or Small Jack-in-the-Pulpit (A. triphyllum) are generally smaller than the Woodland variety and have a single three-part leaf which is bright green beneath. The spathe, the over-arching "flap" which shelters the spadix, is sometimes black beneath. It can be found from New England south and thrives in wet soil. I believe that this is the particular variety I have photographed.
3) Indian Turnip or Northern Jack-in-the-Pulpit (A. stewardsonii) can be distinguished by the corrugated white ridges along the tube portion of the spathe.

Native Americans ate the taproots (corms) as a vegetable, however, due to its chemical content it first had to either be cooked or beaten into a fine mush and allowed to dry otherwise the calcium oxalate crystals present on the whole plant would cause an intense burning sensation. It is also said that they used the aged and dried root as a treatment for colds and dry coughs, and a tea made from the dried root was also used for similar ailments. The Pawnee chose to power the root and apply it externally to the head and temples to treat�copyright DJI 2005 headaches. The Hopis, on the other hand, believed that the powdered root could prevent conception and in a large enough quantity even cause permanent sterility. The partially dried corm of the Jack-in-the-Pulpit was listed in the U.S. Pharmacopoeia from 1820 to 1893 as a treatment for whooping cough, asthma, and rheumatism.(I'm not an herbalist, and I'm certainly not advocating that one should attempt to use a plant medicinally based on any of my writings, just to let you know.)

Linkage (more delightful trivia and other photos):
Jack-in-the-Pulpit
Jack-in-the-Pulpit
Apparently Georgia O'Keefe was also interested in this plant:Jack-in-the-Pulpit No.IV
Information on growing Jack-in-the-Pulpits:Plantfiles: Jack in the Pulpit, Devil's Nip (Arisaema triphyllum)

· originally posted to sphinxmuse
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