Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Jack-in-the-Pulpit

Who doesn't find the Jack-in-the-pulpit interesting?  It fascinates young and old.  It is mysterious looking.  With it's fairy garden appearance it is a wonderful addition to a native garden.  Mine are tucked away and clustered in a shady, moist, north facing corner of my house with other spring favorites  (trillium, Dutchman's breeches and Virginia bluebells).  I was excited when I found seeds at Shirley Meniece and quickly took a packet.

It was decided many, many years ago when given it's name that the Jack-in-the-pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum) looked like an old-style pulpit with the striped spathe; a deep, tubular, light-green structure and over-laying flap,  Inside the spathe, “stood” a little preacher, who was named Jack.  “Jack” is actually a spadix, on which grow the actual flowers of the plant. The flowers may be either male or female. Alongside the flowering structure, there are one or two leaves, each divided into three leaflets. These leaves continue to grow after the flower fades and can become fairly tall.  Pollinated female flowers develop red berries, which by the way are poisonous. When collecting seeds in the fall be sure and wear gloves while handling.

Jack-in-the-pulpit is also called Indian turnip. Some Native American tribes would dry and/or cook the roots (corms) of the plant for medicinal purposes. The corms are poisonous and are painful to the tongue and lips and must not be eaten raw.  Cooking breaks down the chemicals.

A good resource page can be found at the Univ. of Minnesota Extension.

My small cluster has spread slowly over the years.  Rather than buy more plants or wait for the slow naturalization,  I thought I would try these seeds.  I neglected, though, to look up information when I returned home from the conference in the fall and am just now pulling them out. As with most perennial seeds in our zone, they require stratification.  I should have placed the packet in the refrigerator and the seeds may now be too dried out.  I could have also tried the method I am using with my peony seeds of putting in a baggie with wet vermiculate.   But, I will try this method and see what happens.  If no success, I now can hopefully collect from my own garden.  Into the water jug now filled with seed starting soil they go - the process now only takes me about 5 minutes and I can set out in the garden and wait and hope.  It's just the first of March; our frost date is not until May 10. Although our winter has been mild there are still plenty of cold days and nights left.

March 7, 2017
Better late than never!  I planted the seeds in my water jug and out into the garden it goes.

Here are the seeds I received.