Jack in the Pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum) Info
This magick herb has the handy talent of being able to change its sex, which fits, given its appearance--the Jack (the male-looking part) is actually a Jill (the female part). This is a Saturn herb because it grows in the woods, is poisonous (the Meskwaki Indians used it regularly to poison their Sioux enemies), and has insignificant flowers, but its sex changeability shows a very Mercury influence. Roots dried for six months make a traditional amulet for male fertility, and historically, the plant has been used in various contexts for fertility (or to induce sterility). The Menominee Indians used it to throw off witchcraft done to one's face. In keeping with the Mercury influence, the Meskwaki foretold whether a patient would recover or die through this plant. It is great for attracting plant spirits to your yard and is a fine addition to woodland gardens.
This plant enjoys growing in open glades in the forest in rich, moist soil. The seed is very variable so that you will get flowers (spathes) that are light green, dark green, purple striped, even white. They will be lighter in dry ground. Jack-in-the-pulpit gets 20 inches tall & blooms spring to summer. The flowers (the spathes, the pulpit) are 3-8 inches tall; the actual flowers (on the spadix, the Jack) turn into bright red berries in the fall. The fresh root is full of calcium oxalate and will burn mucous membranes, but roasted roots were once made into bread. This plant is also known as bog onion, brown onion, brown dragon, cooter-wampee, devil's ear, dragonroot, Iroquois breadroot, Lords and Ladies, Marsh Turnip, Memory Root, and Plant of Peace. Top
How to Grow Jack-in-the-Pulpit
The seeds germinate at various times, but germination is helped by keeping them at 41F/5C with moisture but not sopping (try using a paper towel in a plastic bag) for 30-180 days (check for germination periodically) and then plant at 55-60F/15C. Or sow on Winter Solstice (see the Solstice Sowing page). Grow it in partial shade and rich soil amended with peat or leaf compost (it's a woodland plant). It will grow on bottomland but not in standing water. It happily grows from New Brunswick to south Florida. It can be easily propagated by root division when the plant dies back in late summer, and it will self seed. Mulch for winter protection if you don't get much snow cover. General growing info Top
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© 2006, 2014 Harold A. Roth; No reproduction of any part without permission.