There is nothing at all like the green dragon in the Illinois woods. The name dracontium and the appearance, which is indeed somewhat dragon-like, produce a slightly sinister aspect in a common spring flower. It does not seem much like a flower, although the dragon arum blooms and produces seeds. The flower is all green with a long, protruding orange or yellow tip of the spadix extending beyond the green envelope in which are the true flowers. These are arranged on a club or spadix, as in the closely related Jack-in-the-pulpit, and later they form seeds.
Arisaema dracontium (L.) Schott.
April - May Deep woods.
Thrusting a stiff, white, pointed shoot through the spring oak woods, the dragon arum appears in April. The folded leaves and stem are enclosed at first in this white sheath, and later it remains around the base of the mottled, pale green stem. This extends straight upward with the leaves drooping above; then suddenly the T-shaped stem and leaves take form. The oval, thin, dark green and veiny leaves are attached to this cross-piece in a semi-circular manner to make a diadem of glossy green leaves. With all this ado of herbage, the flower, is something of an anticlimax. It is not particularly beautiful. But later in the summer the spadix has formed a magnificent club of shining dark green fruits. By October these have turned brilliant crimson. Each individual berry catches the sunlight; it is one of the fine sights of the woods on an autumn day in Illinois.
Dragon arum grows from a solid conn which is set not very deeply in the ground. Like the conn of Jack-in-the-pulpit, this contains sharp-spiked crystals called raphides which are violently irritating when taken into the mouth.