CALABOGIE HIKER: Jack-In-The-Pulpit (Spring Walk Series)

BLOG 9: This unusual Spring wildflower is affectionately called Jack-In-Pulpit. The 'flower' is not technically a flower and is actually the spathe of this plant. If you come across this beau you won't see Jack (the spadix) as you clearly see it in my photo above. Unfortunately for us, the striking purple stripes are found on the underside of the green spathe and Jack is hidden underneath it's curl. In the picture above, I flipped up the spathe to let you view the beautiful stripes with Jack standing in his pulpit. Tiny flowers are hidden deep down in the spathe and found all around the bottom of Jack. The flowers ripen into bright red berries in the fall (see Photo Gallery). Jack-in-the-Pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum) is also know in some areas as Turnip root or Indian root. The 'root' is a turnip shaped corm and was traditionally used by First Nations peoples for several remedies that were administered in the tiniest of doses. Today, it is not recommended for use and should instead be admired by the hiker simply for its rare beauty. Did you know this plant is bi-sexual in nature? According to Marjorie Harris, this plant becomes either male or female in its first year due to the amount of food it has available. Then in the next year, the flowers around jack become equally divided into male and female flowers thereafter. This beauty was photographed in Calabogie, N.E. Ontario. It was only a foot high but I have been lucky to see several massive 3ft high Jacks in Gatineau Park, N.E. Quebec. A very unusual forest find for hikers who stop to investigate this plant. One surely needs to train their eyes to see these camouflaged wonders but once you see Jack you definitely want to see him again. Jack-in-the-Pulpit plants like semi-shaded areas and moist forests. They can be found in early April to July in Eastern NA. I usually see them in May and early June in the highlands near the edge of open spaces.

{Sources: Eastern/Central North American Medicinal Plants and Herbs. Steven Foster and James Duke. 2000, pp.228-229; Botanica North America. Marjorie Harris, 2003. pp.72-75. Photo by Colleen Hulett}