Jack in the Pulpit

Arisaema Triphyllum
Saturday, June 19, 2010

Jack in the Pulpits, sometimes called “Indian Turnips”, are part of the Araceae family, a plant family that is often characterized by a flower inside of a leaf-like spathe, which is a bract surrounding part of a plant (often the flower). Araceae plants can be found all over the world, but for the most part the Jack in the Pulpit is found in the eastern United States, and in almost all of Virginia. They are shade plants.

Jack in the Pulpits are perennials, and can live for decades. They bear flowers of both sexes, and are mainly pollinated by small flies. However, they also have the option of sending out a new root, called a “cormlet”, which can start a new plant. Sometimes a Jack in the Pulpit won’t even send up a flower, and will just produce cormlets instead.

These plants have a toxin called calcium oxalate crystals, and it causes irritation and swelling in the tongue, throat, and lips if eaten. All parts of the plant are toxic, but if the plant is cooked or dried, it is edible, but not recommended. (So don’t eat them)

This Jack in the Pulpit was found in between Burns and Murray Dorm, on the side of the road. It is a large female, and these plants are generally smaller here than the one shown.

Article By Eliza Brodie