JACKINTHEPULPIT INDIAN TURNIP





(Arisaema triphyllum) Arum family



Flowers - Minute, greenish yellow, clustered on the lower part of

a smooth, club-shaped, slender spadix within a green and maroon

or whitish-striped spathe that curves in a broad-pointed flap

above it. Leaves: 3-foliate, usually overtopping the spathe,

their slender petioles 9 to 30 in. high, or as tall as the scape

that rises from an acrid corm. Fruit: Smooth, shining red berries

clustered on the thickened club.

Preferred Habitat - Moist woodland and thickets.

Flowering Season - April-June.

Distribution - Nova Scotia westward to Minnesota, and southward

to the Gulf States.



A jolly looking preacher is Jack, standing erect in his

particolored pulpit with a sounding-board over his head; but he

is a gay deceiver, a wolf in sheep's clothing,, literally a

"brother to dragons," an arrant upstart, an ingrate, a murderer

of innocent benefactors! "Female botanizing classes pounce upon

it as they would upon a pious young clergyman," complains Mr.

Ellwanger. A poor relation of the stately calla lily one knows

Jack to be at a glance, her lovely white robe corresponding to

his striped pulpit, her bright yellow spadix to his sleek

reverence. In the damp woodlands where his pulpit is erected

beneath leafy cathedral arches, minute flies or gnats, recently

emerged from maggots in mushrooms, toadstools, or decaying logs,

form the main part of his congregation.



Now, to drop the clerical simile, let us peep within the

sheathing spathe, or, better still, strip it off altogether. Dr.

Torrey states that the dark-striped spathes are the fertile

plants, those with green and whitish lines, sterile. Within are

smooth, glossy columns, and near the base of each we shall find

the true flowers, minute affairs, some staminate; others, on

distinct plants, pistillate, the berry bearers; or rarely both

male and female florets seated on the same club, as if Jack's

elaborate plan to prevent self-fertilization were not yet

complete. Plants may be detected in process of evolution toward

their ideals: just as nations and men are. Doubtless, when Jack's

mechanism is perfected, his guilt will disappear. A little way

above the florets the club enlarges abruptly, forming a

projecting ledge that effectually closes the avenue of escape for

many a guileless victim. A fungus gnat, enticed perhaps by the

striped house of refuge from cold spring winds, and with a

prospect of food below, enters and slides down the inside walls

or the slippery colored column: in either case descent is very

easy; it is the return that is made so difficult, if not

impossible, for the tiny visitors. Squeezing past the projecting

ledge, the gnat finds himself in a roomy apartment whose floor -

the bottom of the pulpit - is dusted over with fine pollen; that

is, if he is among staminate flowers already mature. To get some

of that pollen, with which the gnat presently covers himself,

transferred to the minute pistillate florets waiting for it in a

distant chamber is, of course, Jack's whole aim in enticing

visitors within his polished walls; but what means are provided

for their escape? Their efforts to crawl upward over the slippery

surface only land them weak and discouraged where they started.

The projecting ledge overhead prevents them from using their

wings; the passage between the ledge and the spathe is far too

narrow to permit flight. Now, if a gnat be persevering, he will

presently discover a gap in the flap where the spathe folds

together in front, and through this tiny opening he makes his

escape, only to enter another pulpit, like the trusted, but too

trusting, messenger he is, and leave some of the vitalizing

pollen on the fertile florets awaiting his coming.



But suppose the fly, small as he is, is too large to work his way

out through the flap, or too bewildered or stupid to find the

opening, or too exhausted after his futile efforts to get out

through the overhead route to persevere, or too weak with hunger

in case of long detention in a pistillate trap where no pollen

is, what then? Open a dozen of Jack's pulpits, and in several, at

least, dead victims will be found - pathetic little corpses

sacrificed to the imperfection of his executive system. Had the

flies entered mature spathes, whose walls had spread outward and

away from the polished column, flight through the overhead route

might have been possible. However glad we may be to make every

due allowance for this sacrifice of the higher life to the lower,

as only a temporary imperfection of mechanism incidental to the

plant's higher development, Jacks present cruelty shocks us no

less. Or, it may be, he will become insectivorous like the

pitcher plant in time. He comes from a rascally family, anyhow.

(See cuckoo pint.)



In June and July the thick-set club, studded over with bright

berries, becomes conspicuous, to attract hungry woodland rovers

in the hope that the seeds will be dropped far from the parent

plant. The Indians used to boil the berries for food. The

farinaceous root (corm) they likewise boiled or dried to extract

the stinging, blistering juice, leaving an edible little

"turnip," however insipid and starchy.



The GREEN DRAGON, or DRAGON-ROOT (A. Dracontium), to which Jack

is brother, is found in similar situations or beside streams in

wet, shady ground, and sends up a narrow greenish or whitish

tapering spathe, one or two inches long, enwrapping a slender,

pointed spadix, that projects sometimes seven inches beyond its

tip. Within, tiny pistillate florets are seated around the base,

while on the staminate plants the inflorescence extends higher. A

large, solitary, dark green leaf, divided into from five to

seventeen oblong, pointed segments, spreads above. Large ovoid

heads of reddish-orange berries are the plant's most conspicuous

feature.





IRONWEED FLAT TOP JERUSALEM ARTICHOKE, EARTH APPLE, CANADA POTATO, GIRASOLE (H. facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

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