Common Names

The Jack-in-the-Pulpit is also known as the Indian-turnip, three-leaved arum, dragon-turnip, devil's ear, bog-onion, and starch-wort.

Plate VI.

Jack in the pulpit.

Photo - F. Fyles.

Jack-in-the-pulpit.

Description

It is a perennial plant from eight inches to three feet high. It usually bears two leaves, sometimes only one. Each leaf has three leaflets, oval, pointed, smooth, entire or sometimes waved at the margins. The so-called "flower" is not only one flower, but is made up of a number of very small flowers arranged around a central axis (spadix) surrounded by a large, sheathing, coloured bract called the spathe. The spadix is popularly known as the "Jack" and the spathe forms his "pulpit." The spathe is pale green, striped with reddish-brown or purple, and is bent over at the top. The spadix is also green and purple, rounded at the top and narrowed at the base, where it is surrounded by the small flowers. In the autumn, the bright scarlet bunch of berries, with the withered spadix and spathe still attached, is quite as conspicuous as the Jack is in the early summer. The underground portion of the plant consists of a round, wrinkled, greyish-brown starchy corm, with a number of rootlets from the upper surface. It is found in bloom in the spring and early summer.

Distribution

Jack-in-the-Pulpit is very common in low, rich woods throughout Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec, and Ontario. It is a native of Canada.

Poisonous Properties

The plant contains acrid properties. The corm is very poisonous. It is held that the acridity disappears with roasting or boiling. No doubt it was used by the Indians, but it is safer . for the white man not to try experiments. Pammel says the corm of the Indian-turnip is so extremely acrid that a decoction made from it has been used to kill insects.