Jack-in-the-pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum)

Arisaema triphyllum leaves and flower

Jack-in-the-Pulpit

Plant Family: Arum, Araceae

Wetland Indicator Status: FACW

This common spring wildflower is easy to overlook in the moist woods and swamps where it is found.  However, once located it is an interesting if not beautiful wildflower.  The flower is formed in a special way called a spathe, reminiscent of carnivorous pitcher plants.  This is the flower of the plant and not a modified insect-eating leaf like that of the pitcher plant, although it often traps insects.  The plants produce flowers of different sexes depending on how much reserve is stored in an underground stem called a corm.  The fertilized female flowers produce a cluster of bright red berries in fall.  These berries are eaten sparingly by birds.  The roots were sometimes eaten by Native Americans after proper treatment to remove the poison.

While many wild plants are toxic and will make you sick enough for you to not repeat eating or experimenting with herbal medicine, Jack-in-the-pulpit has the potential to make you never repeat the mistake.  It is reported to have been used by Native Americans to bring an unpleasant death to their enemies.

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