Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Native wildflower paper #1: Jack-in-the-Pulpit

One of the things I will be posting on this blog is my homework assignments for the Naturalist-in-Training courses. Here is some of what I have done for BFUN202.

Native wildflower paper #1: Jack-in-the-Pulpit

(By the way, I am going to try and only use my own photographs. If I use anyone else's I will cite the source. Otherwise, you can assume the picture is my own work.)

The first thing I noticed about the Jack -in -the -pulpit is that it is not what I was taught in grade school to recognize as a flower. Rather than having petals and stamens and bright colors, it is characterized by its leaf-like spathe and club-like spadix. This is characteristic of the flowers known as arums. It is also primarily green in color and is very easy to overlook if you are not careful. This flower blooms in the springtime before the tree canopy in the forest is filled out with leaves, in order to take advantage of the abundant sunshine. I found this one (or rather, someone else in the group I was with) found it near the trail head on the Rock Run loop at Bernhiem. As most flowers that have a maroon color (see the underside of the spathe in this case) Jack is pollinated by insects such as beetles and flies.

Jack has an interesting way of changing with changing conditions in it's environment. It can actually change it's sex--producing pollen as a male when resources are tight, and accepting pollen and producing seed as a female when resources are more abundant.

Other interesting things about Jack-in-the-Pulpit is that it contains calcium oxalate crystals and will cause intense pain to the mouth if eaten. Reportedly, Native Americans used the dried root in many medicinal uses from headache to contraceptive. But this is only recommended for true professionals!

I got some of my information from:


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