Jack-in-the-Pulpit: Wildflower Wednesday

– Posted in: Native/Invasive, What's up/blooming
8 comments

Jack-in-the-Pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum) is a native plant that has entranced me since childhood, probably since I was first introduced to it on a Girl Scout camping trip. In my previous post about wildflowers I showed the Jack pictured below.

Arisaema triphyllum Jack-in-the-pulpit

Arisaema triphyllum - Jack-in-the-pulpit

Soon after I took that photo, that particular plant was laid low by hard freeze, and I thought that was all I was going to see of Jack-in-the-pulpit until next year.

But I was wrong.

As the weather warmed up, more and more Jacks emerged, from fully developed mature plants to tiny seedlings. Seedlings! They must be happy here! In the end, I really couldn’t count them all, though I think there are about a dozen mature plants with a spadix (the Jack) and spathe (the pulpit). Jack-in-the-pulpit has a lot of natural variation, as you can see below.

Green striped Jack-in-the-pulpit Arisaema triphyllum

The spathe of this plant lacks the dark coloring of the Jack pictured above.

Jack-in-the-pulpit and Trillium both have three leaves

Since both Jack-in-the-pulpit and trillium have three leaves, I used to have trouble telling them apart. There are several differences between the two, but the easiest one to recognize is Jack-in-the-pulpit leaves form a “T”.

T-shaped leaves of Jack-in-the-pulpit

T-shaped leaves of Jack-in-the-pulpit

Trillium leaves are spread out more or less equidistant from each other.
Trillium grandiflorum

The leaves of Trillium grandiflorum are equidistant from each other and more rounded than those of Jack-in-the-pulpit.

If you look carefully you can also see that the veining is different in the leaves of the two plants.
Four Jack-in-the-pulpits

Four Jack-in-the-pulpits plus another three-leaved plant

In the photo above there are four Jacks plus a strawberry plant. The strawberry also has three leaves, but they are serrated, making it easy to distinguish from the other two plants.

Rust Disease in Arisaemas

Did you notice that plant #3 has mottled leaves? I believe this may be the start of a rust that affects arisaemas. According to William Cullina, author of Wildflowers: A Guide to Growing and Propagating Native Flowers of North America, “infected plants develop cupped, misshapen leaves that erupt with rusty brown spores in spring as the plants are blooming. Remove and destroy infected plants.” As I scurried around earlier tonight taking pictures for this post, I did see some plants with cupped and distorted leaves, but I didn’t know what they meant at that point. I will have to go back and remove those plants, since the disease can spread quickly and can affect other arisaema species.

At our old house, I could grow Jack-in-the-pulpit in a garden bed, but could never establish it in the wild, so I am thrilled to see so many growing wild at our new home.

Posted for Wildflower Wednesday, created by Gail of Clay and Limestone, to share wildflowers/native plants no matter where you garden in the blogasphere. “It doesn’t matter if we sometimes show the same plants. How they grow and thrive in your garden is what matters most. It’s always the fourth Wednesday of the month!”

About the Author

Kathy Purdy is a colchicum evangelist, converting unsuspecting gardeners into colchicophiles. She would be delighted to speak to your group about colchicums or other gardening topics. Kathy’s been writing since 4th grade, gardening since high school, and blogging since 2002.

. . . the difference between great daffodils and common ones is not so vast as one thinks in the first flush of excitement when one starts being serious about daffodils.

~Henry Mitchell in The Essential Earthman: Henry Mitchell on Gardening

7 Comments… add one

commonweeder June 6, 2012, 8:09 am

The Jacks are still blooming on the Bridge of Flowers. And someone pointed out the Jill to me for the first time. Sex in the garden! I was shocked.

Nutmeg Squirrel June 5, 2012, 8:38 am

Wow, you really are ‘cold climate gardening’! Our Jacks here in VA bloomed about a month ago and have set their fruits (photo on out blog a few days ago). We’re looking forward to spreading their seeds this fall, in September we think. Will yours mature even faster to beat the frost? That would be interesting to compare.
Lovely photos! Thanks!

Gale May 24, 2012, 2:52 pm

I miss dogwood…out in the California mountains where I grew up it grew everywhere.

Frances May 24, 2012, 5:35 am

How wonderful it is to follow along as you discover what lies beneath the soil at your new garden, Kathy. The Jacks and Trilliums are two of my favorite wildflowers and I have always had trouble telling the foliage apart. Thanks for the info!

Teresa May 23, 2012, 11:50 pm

I have some of these too Kathy. They are such an interesting plant. Enjoyed your post!

Gail May 23, 2012, 11:37 pm

I love them, too, Kathy and wrote about their ‘cousin’ the Green Dragon!

Mr. McGregor's Daughter May 23, 2012, 11:05 pm

Ack! I didn’t know Arisaema triphyllums got rust. Thanks for the warning. I’ve loved these plants since I first saw them when I was 4 & enjoyed lifting the hood to see Jack.

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