Index- plants in this Family
Araceae / Arum
Jack in the Pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum)
Jack in the Pulpit is also known as Indian Turnip.

Plant Type: This is a herbaceous plant, it is a perennial which can reach 65cm in height (25inches).
Leaves: This plant has basal leaves only. Usually two but sometimes one. Each leaf is divided into three almost equal parts.
Flowers: The flowers are irregular in shape and are up to 8cm long (3 inches). They are green with purple or brown stripes sometimes brownish. Blooms first appear in mid spring and continue into late spring. The spathe (pulpit) is most often green streaked with purplish. The spadix (jack) is covered with tiny male and female flowers.
Fruit: A cluster of bright red shiny berries.
Habitat: Rich moist woods.
Range: New Brunswick south to Florida.

      Color Photo     More Info      Classification

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If you are lucky enough to view many of these plants in different areas you may notice three distinct forms. Some botanist classify them all as variations on a single species and others as three separate species.

Historical Lore: Calcium oxalate crystals present in the entire plant will cause a powerful burning sensation if eaten raw. Properly drying or cooking removes this effect and the Native Americans used the root as a vegetable. There is one account stating that the Meskwaki Indians would put finely chopped root into meat they would leave for their enemies to find, principally the Sioux. The meat was flavorful and would be consumed, but, in a few hours these enemies would be in so much pain they would die! It is reported that they also used it diagnostically by dropping a seed in a cup of water and if the seed went around four times clockwise the patient would recover and if less the patient would die.

Medical Uses: Despite its possible irritating effects there are several accounts of Native Americans using a preparation of the root on sore eyes. It was also used for cold symptoms and as a tonic. Externally it has been used for various skin infections and against pain and swelling.
: No part of the fresh plant should be taken internally.

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More Info:  
The Search below may provide more information about this species. Some of URLs may have been used as a source for this page not otherwise cited. Most of the information not cited comes from multiple sources that can be found in the Books page. The USDA plant links are provided by: USDA, NRCS 1999. The PLANTS database ( National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA. You can check species names at ITIS Advanced Search to see if they meet the current ITIS taxonomic criteria.

By: Newcomb, Lawrence and Illustrated by Morrison, Gordon. 1977, Little, Brown and Company, ISBN:0-316-60442-9

One of the best general guides to wildflowers of the North Eastern and North Central United States. Newcomb's key is an excellent, simple method for identifying plants. Newcomb has drawings for almost every plant mentioned that are excellent aids to identifying the species. Though only the more common plants are covered this is often the first book I pick up when trying to identify a wildflower.

Wildflo wers of Tennessee the Ohio Valley and the Southern Appalachians
By: Dennis Horn and Tavia Cathcart and Thomas E. Hemmerly and David Duhl. , ISBN:1551054280

This is perhaps the best of many field guides covering this region. Featuring 446 excellent color photographs (located with the text) and mentioning as similar to those illustrated are another 800 or so species for a total coverage of over 1,200 species. The start of each family section includes line drawings of some of the species showing important features. The text includes the usual description, bloom season, range, habitat and additionally includes information such as medical uses and lore and how the species was named. This is the official field guide of the Tennessee Native Plant Society.

Angiosperms / Flowering Plants
Monocots / One Seed Leaf


Jack in the Pulpit

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