One to two large, glossy leaves, divided into three leaflets, rise on their own stems 1-3 ft. The intriguing blossom of this woodlandperennial occurs on a separate stalk at the same height as the leaves. It is a large, cylindrical, hooded flower, green in color with brown stripes. Distinctive Jack-in-the-pulpit formation grows beneath large leaves. In late summer, a cluster of bright red berries appears.
Some authorities recognize one species, and others three, based on minor differences in leaves, spathe, and size. Although it causes a strong burning reaction and has a strong peppery taste if eaten raw, the underground tuber can be eaten if dried or cooked, as cooking eliminates these unpleasant properties.
Root Type: Tap
Size Class: 1-3 ft.
Bloom Color: Green , Purple , Brown
Bloom Time: Mar , Apr , May , Jun
USA: AL , AR , CT , DC , DE , FL , GA , IA , IL , IN , KS , KY , LA , MA , MD , ME , MI , MN , MO , MS , NC , ND , NE , NH , NJ , NY ,SC , SD , TN , TX , VA , VT , WI , WV
Canada: MB , NB , NS , ON , PE , QC
Native Distribution: N.S. to Man. & e. ND, s. to FL, e. TX & e. KS
Native Habitat: Forest, Woodland, Swamp, Marsh
Water Use: High
Light Requirement: Sun , Shade
Soil Moisture: Moist , Wet
CaCO3 Tolerance: Medium
Soil Description: Humus-rich, moist soils.
Conditions Comments: Jack-in-the-pulpit is an excellent woodsgarden plant, very easy to cultivate and requiring very little care. It thrives under a variety of conditions, but grows most vigorously in moist, shady, seasonally wet locations. A heavy, leafy wintercover should be left in place.
Use Wildlife: Birds and mammals eat the berries of this plant.
Use Food: Native Americans gathered the fleshy taproots (corms) as a vegetable. Roots, only when dried or cooked. Collect roots in early spring. Never eat roots raw as they can be intensely bitter and can cause blisters. Dry for at least six months before eating. Peel, cut into small pieces, roast in the oven for at least one hour and grind into a flour or coffee grinder until quite fine. Add the ground root to bread doughs or muffin batters. Thin slices of the root, dried for 3 months, can be eaten as snacks or with potato-chip dip. (Poisonous Plants of N.C. State)
Warning: Containing needle-like calcium oxalate crystals and perhaps other acrid substances, the berries, foliage, and roots of this plant will cause painful irritation of the mouth and throat if ingested. The roots can cause blisters on skin if touched. Because of needle-like calcium oxalate crystals in the underground tuber, it is peppery to the taste and causes a strong burning reaction if eaten raw. This unpleasant property can be eliminated by cooking. American First Nations gathered the fleshy taproots (corms) as a vegetable. (Niering)
Conspicuous Flowers: yes
Interesting Foliage: yes
Description: Propagate by root division or seed. Seeds may be sown outside in late fall, 3/4 deep, or the following spring with or without cold treatment. Seeds should not be allowed to dry out. The seeds may not germinate for up to two years. Cormlets can be separated from the parent corm in fall.
Seed Collection: Collect fruits in fall when the berries are red. Approximate collection date for northern U.S.: Late Aug. & Sep.
Seed Treatment: Remove the small brown seed from the pulp. Stratify stored seeds by placing them in moist sphagmun moss and refrigerating 60 days before planting.