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Arisaema triphyllum – Jack-in-the-Pulpit

Categories:Ecology For the Shade Garden Native Plants Perennials

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Arisaema triphyllum, jack-in-the-pulpit, is a classic native perennial of North America. It is a solid choice for gardeners who seek native plants and have a shady garden.

Jack-in-the-pulpit needs shade and moisture in the soil.

Whether they are children or grizzled old gardeners, Arisaema triphyllum in flower will get the attention of anyone who passes it in your garden. It’s special and people instinctively know it.

Jack-in-the-pulpit. Native perennial for the shade.
Jack-in-the-pulpit. Native perennial for the shade.

Once established, do not disturb jack-in-the-pulpit.

Let it slowly multiply to form a colony in the most natural woodland setting you can muster. Arisaema triphyllum goes summer-dormant. Similar to trilliums, the leaves will disappear as summer rolls on. Do not be concerned.

I cannot recall viewing a map of native plant distributions as comprehensive as Arisaema triphyllum. It is found in woodlands from Canada to Florida and west to Nebraska. I counted thirty-eight states that jack-in-the-pulpit calls home. Imagine moving across the country, maybe feeling a little homesick, and there is jack-in-the-pulpit to remind you there is good in most every place if you look around a bit.

Arisaema triphyllum is not a beacon. You might miss it unless you are walking in the forest with eyes turned downward. Jack-in-the-pulpit can grow a foot or three, sure, but most plants I have seen are smaller and the green blends in with the rest of the forest floor.

The distinctive flowers occur in April and May in most locales, and you may have to get down there to see them. I have never worked so hard for a photograph as those of Arisaema triiphyllum. The flowers are distinct, green with dark green stripes, and may be found rising above and hiding below the leaves.

Leaves are divided into three leaflets.

native gardening = jack-in-the-pulpit
Arisaema triphyllum has three leaflets per leaf stalk.

Birds and small animals eat jack-in-the-pulpit’s berries in late summer.

The root contains calcium oxide, and an extremely unpleasant result is guaranteed if jack-in-the-pulpit roots are ingested raw. The root may be edible if cooked, but I wouldn’t risk it unless you are extremely experienced with food preparation of this specific species.

According to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, there is disagreement as to whether there are three distinct species of jack-in-the-pulpit or one. The debate is due to variations in color, size, and leaf size. I am not surprised as I have seen variation between colonies in different locations.


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