I don’t know about you but it’s been a challenge doing Spring Clean Up with all of this liquid sunshine. The good news is I managed to get in about 8 hours of clean up recently and to my surprise found some new friends in the garden. One in particular made me shout out for joy, the unwonted(for my garden that is) Jack-in-the-pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum) hidden behind a nice pile of winter decorative foliage aka, a disassembled winter wreath or swag of some sort under a pretty dense shrub. Once that was all cleared out; there in an eye’s view was this little beauty, quite tall and proud indeed! I was quite surprise it had not been damaged in my not so careful removal of the winter debris since I did not think anything was there to be cautious about. I’m still trying to figure out how it got there, but we will get to that later 🙂
So Jack-in-the-pulpit is a pretty cool looking plant for sure, it’s botanical name is Arisaema triphyllum as I mentioned earlier, it is phonetically pronounced air-iss-EE-muh try-FY-lum. We need to practice our Latin pronunciation of the true botanical names when we can, so count this as today’s lesson, LOL.
Anyway, this herbaceous perennial plant grows from a corm, which could have three parted leaves and a flower contained in a spathe. Ok let’s break it down a bit; a corm is a rounded underground storage organ that some plants use to survive winter or other extreme conditions such as a summer drought and high heated temperatures sometimes experienced in nature; it has a swollen stem base covered with scale leaves. You will also find corms in crocuses, gladioli and cyclamen. Corms are also called bulbo-tuber or bulbotuber it is short, vertical and a swollen modified stem, other types of modified stems are rhizomes, tuber, stolons, and bulbs.
The bloom consist of a very deep cylindrical pouch called a spathe- the “pulpit” it will have alternating strips of lighter and darker green sometimes purple. When you lift up the flap at the top of the spathe you will see a round headed slender spike this is our friend “Jack” this spike is called a spadix.
If the plant has three parted leaves it is usually a male and at the base of the spadix will be thread like male flowers that yield yellow pollen, if it is large and has only two parted leaves it is a female and at the base of it’s spadix will be tiny green berry like structures. In the female once the flowers have faded a cluster of bright red berries will appear and last till the end of summer. These seeds will seed themselves or you can remove them and plant elsewhere. The female is called Jill-in-the-pulpit.
My guy is definitely a boy.
Jack-in-the-pulpit is pollinated by tiny fungus flies that are attracted to the flowers by a faint odor that smells like mushrooms. The flies enter at the top of the spathe are trapped and then covered with pollen, once they relax they realize they can exit at the base of the spathe by leaving thru a small slit.
So I’m not sure how my flower ended up in my front garden, I could have planted it there maybe two years ago cause that’s when I remember a friend sharing it but this was the first time I’ve ever seen one survive the transplant.
There are two other reasons it may have emerged this season one could be all of this consistent liquid sunshine, the end of the winter heavy rains apparently has a lot to do with mature plants (which take about two years to grow) sprouting into big healthy blossoms. That particular area of the garden gets soaked due to a never ending clogged gutter and poor landscape grading; at least this flower brought joy amidst the trials of this soggy area.
Secondly, it could have ended up in this area due to a local native creature; a box turtle. Yup, that’s right our native eastern box turtle is known to transplant these flowers via seed disbursement passing thru their digestive tracts. They love muck gardens, that are wet,with lots of leaf litter, trees and shrubs to hide in, with a little area to sunbathe too, which is totally the description of this front area. They also transplant may apples which might explain my explosion of may apples on the other side of the house. So yeah Mr. Turtle might be the culprit. How cool is that! I’m leaning towards the latter reason, since I don’t remember putting it there (cause I sort of keep a semi-good log of where I plant stuff) plus it sounds better saying the turtle put it there, LOL what gardener wouldn’t want to tell that story (giggling) thanks Mr. Turtle 🙂
Either way, it is now there, it’s been documented as such and shared with the world so let’s see what happens next year.
Lastly, not sure why its called Jack-in-the-pulpit, some say maybe it was named after a clergyman named Jack. The finger like spadix that sticks up standing in the spathe resembles a man of the cloth standing in a church pulpit, preaching to the garden, LOL. It has other names such as bog onion (since onions are corms), wild turnip, brown dragon and Indian turnip. I think we all agree Jack-in-the-pulpit sounds more intriguing and just plain fun!
Well, if you don’t get to church regularly and you want to find some peace in your life for just a moment and you are fortunate enough to have this unique flower in your garden, just go sit next to it, observe it, and let it teach you a spiritual lesson from nature’s pulpit of taking the time to slow down, chill and enjoy the amazing and wonderful creations from God above, because no human in all their abilities to create things on earth could ever copy this wonderful specimen!
Till we meet again, get out there, get dirty and enjoy gardening.