Friday, April 29, 2011

Jack in the Pulpit

(Pictured: Jack in the Pulpit from IvoShandor off Wikipedia)

Jack in the Pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum) is another herbaceous perennial that is fabulous in a bog garden setting. It will get to be approximately two feet tall and will really bring some texture into the garden. However, it isn’t a perfect plant and can be poisonous to pets and others. If this is the plant that is chosen for the water feature, make sure that it is kept either in a container water garden away from pets and children, or where there will be no livestock or browsing animals.

How to Plant and Grow Jack in the Pulpit
Jack in the Pulpit has strange flowers that get to three inches, green with stripes. There are red berries that form as the plant’s fruits. It will need to be planted in plenty of moisture if it isn’t planted into a bog or water garden. It does love rich soils and partially shady areas of the landscape. Because it will need very rich soil, you’ll need to do a good bit of composting around it so that the soil has plenty of nutrients for the hungry plants.

Old Folk Remedy
The Native Americans used this in several different ways. It was used as an early warning diagnostic tool, as placing a seed in a water glass and counting the number of clockwise rotations. Less than four rotations and the patient was at death’s door, over four and there would be a speedy recovery. It was also left in meat for one's enemies to find; the calcium oxalate that is plentiful in the plant will, when not cooked or heated to be released, would cause them to die a painful death. Calcium oxalate, the chemical in kidney stone formation, causes pain and can even lead to coma and even death if the poisoning is severe.

Despite today being known for its toxicity and severe implications for use, it was used medicinally in folk remedies as an internal medicine for sore eyes and cold symptoms. Topically, it was used for pain and swelling from various irritations and infections of the skin. Today we know that it will cause severe symptoms and isn’t advisable in any form.

Scientific Classification for Jack in the Pulpit
  • Kingdom Plantae – Plants
  • Subkingdom Tracheobionta – Vascular plants
  • Superdivision Spermatophyta – Seed plants
  • Division Magnoliophyta – Flowering plants
  • Class Liliopsida – Monocotyledons
  • Subclass Arecidae
  • Order Arales
  • Family Araceae – Arum family
  • Genus Arisaema Mart. – Jack in the pulpit
  • Species Arisaema triphyllum (L.) Schott – Jack in the pulpit


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