Monday, May 28, 2012

Walking in the Woods with Jack

I love all spring wildflowers, but for some I have particular affection. When I was a child, the little old lady neighbor across the street had a double lot with a woodland wildflower garden. When she died, her children invited the neighbors to come over and help themselves to the plants because the property was being divided and sold. Mom brought home all sorts of wildflowers and planted them under the spruces at the back property line. It was very shady, but of course, dry, so the plants grew for a few years before fading away.

One of my favorites is Jack-in-the-pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum) for its bizarre flowers. As a kid, it was magical to lift the stripy spathe or hood and peek in to find Jack, the spadix. These are fairly large for the wildflower world and can be almost two feet tall. As we walk through the woods, I always look for their distinct trifoliate leaves and check to see how Jack is doing. Later in summer, the plant will go dormant except for a cluster of bright red berries that are eaten by wildlife. Turns out Jack-in-the-pulpit roots or corms are poisoinous when eaten fresh, although lose their toxicity when cooked.

I hope you have a favorite wildflower. I'll be forever taking a peek at Jack in his pulpit. Just checking, really, in case he ducks out for a snack.

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