This is quite a large family of plants containing six genera. All have acrid or pungent juices; flowers closely crowded on a spadix, usually surrounded by a spathe; leaves either simple or compound and of various shapes.
Jack-in-the-Pulpit. Arisaema triphyllum.
Jack-In-The-Pulpit Or Indian Turnip (Arisaema Triphyllum)is the most abundant and the best known representative of this genus. In most all moist woods and often in unexpected shady nooks, you will find Jack, represented by the spadix, looking out at you from his pulpit, represented by the spathe of the flower. The spathe is light green, more or less striped with brown, especially on the inside; the spadix is also green and has the tiny flowers clustered about its base. The flowers are sometimes of both kinds on one plant, but usually the stamens will be found on one and the pistils on a different one, thus insuring cross-fertilization, which is accomplished chiefly by small flies and gnats. The inside of the spathe is very slippery, as is also the spadix, so that many insects are unable to crawl up its sides and perish within. The large solid roots are very acrid and fiery to the taste, but are said to have been relished by the Indians, although they are now often used in the concoction of medicines. Usually two, thrice-compounded leaves spread shelteringly over the flower spathe on long stems. Large clusters of bright berries remain after the leaves have withered. Flowers throughout U. S. from April to July.
Green Dragon (Arisaema Dracontium)has one leaf divided into ten radiating pointed leaflets on a long stem, sheltering the flowers clustered at the base of a projecting spathed spadix.
A. Water Arum. Calla palustris.
B. Golden Club. Orontium aquaticum.
Water Arum (Calla Palustris)is our only representative of its genus. It is quite a common plant in cool bogs, where it grows from six inches to a foot in height. The root stalks are perennial and branch out through the soft mud, continually throwing up new plants, until shallow ponds may become completely carpeted with the beautiful dark green, heart shaped leaves. The leaves stand above the water on long petioles. This plant is distinguished by a beautiful, waxy-white, spreading spathe that is often mistaken for the flower.
The true flowers are small and perfect, clustered at the end of a yellow spadix. They give forth a rather disagreeable odor that attracts to them numerous little flies that assist in pollenization, although the plant is capable of self-fertilization.
Each plant usually has but two leaves. The flowering season is in June; in August they have been transformed into clusters of red berries. You may find this plant commonly in cool bogs from N. J. and Mo. northwards.