“Sex is the seed, love is the flower, and compassion is the fragrance.” – Rajneesh
Okay, let’s get to the good stuff first. SEX! I hope you agree that Jack is one sexy dude. Or is he? Well, actually Jack is a native wildflower found in woodland areas throughout the United States.
Jack is actually a sex change artist. Flowers of both sexes are on a different part of the same spadix. In general, young plants and those that were stressed in the previous year bear male flowers, while mature well-nourished plants bear female flowers. Plants can live from 20 – 100 years in the right conditions.
Why not call Jack – Jacqueline?
Jack-in-the-Pulpit takes its name from the English tradition of calling any random male Jack. Another name given to this flower is Indian Turnip because the corm, the turnip like tuber that feeds the plant, is edible under certain conditions.
Over several weeks, I discovered 35 of these incredible plants in Forest Park about 1 1⁄2 walking miles from our apartment in Forest Hills. In comparison, up until then, I had only seen about 5 of these plants my entire life. Mostly, I discovered this wildflower in an area called the Watering Hole where birders and photographers gather during spring bird migration to view the variety of bird species flying in to drink, bathe, refuel, rest and entertain before continuing their journey to nest in the northern United States. 2021 was a slow early season for bird- ing so I started looking for wildflowers and that’s when I discovered the majestic Jack-in-the-Pulpit. It was March 28th, and I haven’t stopped looking for wildflowers since.
Beautiful, but deadly!
Most of the plant is poisonous. One account from the Meskwaki Indians states that they would chop the herb’s corm (a tuber) and mix it with meat. They’d leave the meat out for their enemies to find. Since the poison was tasteless, their enemies experienced extreme pain and death. Yikes! But if the tuber is dried or baked long enough it can be eaten. Not a side dish I’d want to serve my friends. The Native Americans also used it to determine the fate of the sick by dropping a seed in a cup of stirred water. If the seed went around 4 times clockwise, the patient would recover. If it went around less than 4 times, it was curtains for the patient. On the other hand, they also made from it a compound to cure sore eyes, to treat rheumatism, bronchitis and snakebites as well to induce sterility. I think we’ll stop there. It’s a very versatile plant.
Have a week filled with continued happiness as is the true meaning of the name Jack-in-the-Pulpit.