Jack-in-the-Pulpit, Arisaema triphyllum

Submitted by Tom Palmer, Hernando Chapter. Edited by Valerie Anderson

Jack-in-the-Pulpit, photo by Tom Palmer

Jack-in-the-Pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum) emerges in floodplain forests in most of Florida at the beginning of spring. The plant’s Latin name refers to its three prominent leaves that spread above the spathe that is the “pulpit” from which the common name (also known as Parson-in-the-Pulpit) derives.

Purple splotched spathe. Photo by Tom Palmer

The spathe ranges from green to purple. The plant also includes a cluster of red berries that ripen later in the year. This plant is widespread, growing all over the Eastern United States and as far north as Nova Scotia. However the plant is not uniformly distributed and sometimes may be absent or infrequent in suitable habitat.
Arisaema triphyllum was once divided into two species (A. triphyllum and A. acuminatum) based on morphological differences described by Small and others. It was originally described as Arum triphyllum in 1753. Another common name is Indian turnip. The plant can be eaten as a root vegetable if it is dried and cooked. Eating the root raw can cause a “violent burning sensation,” according to Small. Other reports say eating the corm (fleshy taproots) raw can be fatal. Native Americans reportedly used the plant for medicinal purposes to treat rheumatism, bronchitis and snakebites.
Jack-in-the-Pulpit, photo by Tom Palmer
Tom Palmer, a Lakeland Ledger reporter since 1980, retired in 2016. He has been referred to "as a walking encyclopedia of everything environmental." Palmer truly loves the outdoors and often spends weekends birding, searching for the exotic or cleaning trash from lakefronts and other areas. We are thankful to have Tom as a member of the Hernando Chapter of FNPS

Further Reading

USF Atlas of Florida Plants: Arisaema triphyllum
FNPS Native Plants for Your Area: Arisaema triphyllum
Native Florida Wildflowers (C. Huegel) Blog: Jack-in-the-Pulpit


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