The jack-in-the-pulpit hardly escapes our attention when sighted in the woodlands. Its floral “pulpit,” known technically as the spath, surrounds the upright “jack,” which is technically the spadix. Anyone familiar with the spreading petals of most flowers is amazed when first sighting their first jack-in-the-pulpit. Here is an arrangement where the small flowers (male and female organs) are positioned at the base of the spadix and concealed by a glorious awning, the spathe.
Native Americans used the taproot by cooking it as a vegetable. If eaten raw, the taproot can cause a severe burning sensation. There is a tale relating how some young aspiring Indian warriors were required to eat a raw taproot without flinching in order to prove their manhood.
(See also further information about the Jack-in-the-Pulpit.)
Copyright © 2004 William T. Hathaway.