Jack in the Pulpit Facts

by Jim Frazier on flickr
by Jim Frazier on flickr
by winged photography on flickr
by winged photography on flickr
by dianecordell on flickr
by dianecordell on flickr

Nature has many unusual and fascinating specimens.  Take a look at the platypus.  That was created just to throw Darwin a curve ball.  What about the Bermuda triangle?  We still can’t figure out what is going on there.  They all intrigue us.  Even the plant world has its creative side.  Just look at a Jack in the Pulpit.

Yes, I said a Jack in the Pulpit. If you are not a plant person, this really sounds strange. But it is a real plant.

The Jack in the Pulpit, further known here as JIP, is a hooded flower that grows up to three feet tall. It is a wildflower that looks great in woodsy and shaded gardens. This perennial is very unique and you can tell from just looking at it. It actually has one “leaf” that creates a hood over “Jack”, the spadix. It resembles the old fashioned pulpits that were almost like small balconies that you can still find in a few churches today. It is also known as “Lord and Lady” because it can also resemble medieval nobility and their fancy clothes.

Toward the end of summer JIP will produce berries that many of the wildlife love to eat. They are bright red and add some color to a walkway or small garden. These plants also self-propagate by starting off as a male and after two years becoming female.

JIP is not just for a pretty garden sitting.  It has edible, medicinal, and deadly qualities.  The roots of this plant put it on the poisonous list.  They can cause burning when touched with your hands and when eaten raw it can cause severe pain and even death.  Livestock should not have this plant anywhere near them as they will eat the flower and the roots.  According to many Native American sources, this root was sometimes used against enemies.  It was mixed in food that was served.  When the dreadful pain set in, the enemy was defenseless against any attacks. 

                But the plant does have its edible side.  The roots can be eaten.  I know that I just said that they cannot because you will die or wish that you were dead.  But there is a way around this and have this root serve as a rather tasty vegetable.  The root, of course, needs to be handled carefully when first harvested.  Then patience becomes a virtue.  The root needs to dry for several months so that the toxic properties “disappear”.  Once that happens, the root can be cut up, cooked, eaten as potato chips, or mixed in a stew. 

                There are also reports of Native Americans using the root as a salve for wounds or eye injuries.  Special care was used and only the dried root was used in these procedures.  NEVER use a raw root.  Avoid it.

                The JIP is a stately plant and should not be totally dismissed because of its toxicity.  Place it in the part of your garden where it can be enjoyed by the eyes and not by any digestive systems. 

by pl1602 on flickr
by pl1602 on flickr
by Jim Frazier on flickr
by Jim Frazier on flickr
by Rob Ireton on flickr
by Rob Ireton on flickr

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Comments 8 comments

Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 6 years ago from Upstate New York

Terrific hub on Jack in the Pulpit. We had them in our woods back home, and they're a fascinating plant. We liked their size--maybe the biggest of the wildflowers, excepting Tiger Lilies. Very, very beautiful in their natural surroundings. You did a good job on this hub--I didn't know the fresh roots were poisonous.


dusanotes profile image

dusanotes 6 years ago from Windermere, FL

Thanks, RGraff. I learned something here. I, like most people, had never heard of Jack In The Pulpit plants. Many of the names they use for plants are not memorable because they are Greek or Latin. I suppose we should feel favored from time to time to have someone come up with a descriptive name like this. Don White


tim-tim profile image

tim-tim 6 years ago from Normal, Illinois

I love the Jack of Pulpit! In fact, I have some in my yard and in one of my hub. I wasn't sure if that is the name of the plant but now, you confirmed that for me. Love it! Thanks for sharing:)


hello 6 years ago

I love it I hve some in my garden Awsome


The Dirt Farmer 5 years ago

We used to look for these in the woods when I was a kid because they were so rare and unique looking. I had no idea that they had medicinal value. Thanks for the info!


moonlake profile image

moonlake 5 years ago from America

I found Jack of Pulpit growing in my garden. I didn't put it there the lady who had this place before must have planted it. I love the way they look. Nice Hub.


PamD 4 years ago

Aren't they gorgeous!?!?!? I just love them. Interesting about the other properties.


leaj mg. 4 years ago

their soooo pretty!!!!!

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