Fall Wildflowers of New England
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Jack In The Pulpit
Arisaema atrorubens
F. Araceae
Arisaema atrorubens inflorescence growing beneath its leaves (photo courtesy of Professor Dan Perlman)
General Description:

Jack-in-the-pulpit is a unique flower that measures approximately 30-90 cm. in height and is most easily recognized by its unique flower; comprised of a long, brown spadix enveloped by a green and brown streaked spathe. The large elliptical leaves are arranged atop the terminal shoot of a fibrous stem in groupings of three or less.

Flowers:

The flower, for which jack-in-the pulpit receives its name, is comprised of a long, brown spadix, measuring 5-7.5 cm. in length, which is mottled along its base with tiny, separate female and male flowers. This spadix is enveloped in a green and brown streaked (or speckled) spathe. The spathe forms a pitcher-like structure around the spadix and has a flared lip and a long, tapered hood that extends over the spadix. The flower is positioned singularly atop a thick, rigid stem.

Fruit:

The berry-like fruit are round and bright red. They are arranged in an elongated cluster along the length of the spadix.

Leaves:

The leaves are large, elliptical, and dull green. They have long petioles and very pronounced veining. Leaves are arranged in groupings of three or less atop a thick, rigid stem that extends above the flowering structure.

Habitat:

Jack-in-the-pulpit grows best in damp woods and swamps.

Fun Facts:

Jack-in-thee-pulpit receives its name from the structure of its unique flower. The spadix (jack) "stands" in the pulpit-like structure of the spathe.

Jack-in-the-pulpit is an edible plant. Native Americans harvested jack-in-the-pulpit corms (fleshy underground stem structures, much like tubers) for consumption. However, this wildflower must not be eaten raw because the corms contain needle-like calcium oxalate crystals and other vicious chemicals that give them an unpleasant peppery taste and produce a painfully strong burning sensation on the tongue. Cooking breaks down these chemicals.

Other names attribute to the jack-in-the-pulpit include the Indian turnip.

Arisaema atrorubens' scarlet fruit (photo courtesy of Professor Dan Perlman).
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