Jack in the Pulpit Facts
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.
- HowStuffWorks "Jack-in-the-Pulpit: A Profile of a Shade Plant"
Jack-in-the-pulpit is a unique flower named for its oddly-shaped bloom. Learn about growing and using jack-in-the-pulpit at HowStuffWorks.
- Jack in the Pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum)
- Hiker\'s Notebook: Jack-in-the-Pulpit