Gleaming like a creation in pale green wax, the Jack-in-the-purpit stands ereet and perfect in the springtime sunlight. Here is a plant whose economy of design is complete as it stands: this is it. There will be no more growth of leaf or stem this year. Here is a sheath around the base of the stem, a stem which forks just above the sheath so thai one fork becomes a flower stalk and the other a leaf stalk. Both are mottled with pale purple or simply are pale green and watery inside, yet nevertheless are stiff and erect. The Jack-in-the-pulpit seldom or never reclines; it is alert, as if standing crisply at attention.
Arisaema triphyllum ( L. ) Schott.
April - May. Deep woods, slopes.
The top of the petiole (sometimes there are two) is composed of three spreading green leaflets arranged triangularly. The veining is prominent: this is part of the beauty of the Jack-in-the-pulpit leaf. The flowering stem is more slender and at its tip is a unique creation in these American woods: this is the Jack-in-the-pulpit itself and there is nothing else like it. The pnl|>it is an enclosing green sheath with a flap held high at the top, surrounding and protecting a stiff green spadix (the Jack itself) at the bottom of which are the true flowers. The upper part the spadix is smooth and pale green. It tapers and constricts past its middle, and below this are tiny, closely packed, yellow staminate flowers or tiny given, knobby, pistillate flowers.
The Jack-in-the-pulpit grows, as the green dragon does, from a flat corm containing irritating raphide crystals. In using the corn or "Indian turnip" for food, however, the Indians boiled it and thus rendered the crystals soft and harmless. To the uninitiated, the raw root on the tongue may be a dreadful experience.