| Feb 2006
|| JACK IN THE PULPIT
Jack-in-the Pulpits are widespread in the eastern U.S. They grow in woods and swamps and bloom in March and April. Unlike most other plants which grow their parts sequentially after emergence, Jack in the Pulpit's develop their stems, leaves, and flowering parts (when present) underground and then emerge and unfold in a completed state.
The leaf stems have a large three part dark green elliptic leaf with smooth margins. The stems are smooth and pale green. Plants that are several years old may also have a flowering stem that is not as tall as the leaves. The very unusual inflorescence consists of a tubular "spathe" with a hood that surrounds and almost encloses the flower bearing "spadix". The Spathe has vertical light green stripes. The spadix is an elongated rod shaped appendage that may be male "staminate" or female "pistillate". The actual flowers are at the base of the spadix and are tiny and inconspicuous. The arrangement of the flower parts provides the basis for the common name. The spadix (jack) appears to be standing in the spathe (pulpit).
The female flowers develop berries that are green during the summer and then turn bright red in the fall. By this time the spathe is gone and the red berries are very noticeable. The resulting seeds are reported to germinate readily, but it may take several years before a new plant will produce more seeds. The plant in its first years does not produce flowers. When the corm is big enough to store substantial nutrient quantities, male and then seed producing female flowers will be developed.
Indians used dried Jack In The Pulpit roots to "cure" coughs. The also ate the corms probably after cooking them to remove some of calcium oxalate. That probably is the reason for the alternate name "Indian Turnip"