When in bloom, one of the more easily identifiable native plants to be found in the Upper Delaware River region is “Jack-in-the-pulpit” (Arisaema triphyllum), a delightful spring …
When in bloom, one of the more easily identifiable native plants to be found in the Upper Delaware River region is “Jack-in-the-pulpit” (Arisaema triphyllum), a delightful spring wildflower that heralds the return of the warmer seasons. Also known as Indian turnip, this shade-loving long-lived perennial prefers rich, moist forests and floodplains, but can also be cultivated in shade gardens.
The winsome woodland wildflower gets its name from its unique flower, which resembles a church pulpit. Within, an upright figure (the plant’s spadix) perches like a miniature preacher (Jack).
Other common names for the plant are bog onion, American wake-robin, wild turnip and brown dragon.
According to the “Peterson Guide to Medicinal Plants and Herbs,” this interesting species has historically been used to treat a variety of ailments, ranging from colds, coughs, asthma, bronchitis, laryngitis and headaches to rheumatism, boils, abscesses and ringworm. Proper preparation, such as cooking or drying, is required for any such application.
Keep in mind that the plant’s leaves and fruits contain calcium oxalate; that can be very irritating to the skin. If handling, be sure to wear gloves. The needle-like calcium oxalate crystals are also present in the plant’s underground tuber and will cause a strong burning sensation if eaten raw. Ingesting the fresh root can cause poisoning and possibly death.
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