About Jack-in-the-Pulpit: Named for its resemblance to a preacher in a canopied pulpit, Jack in the Pulpit grows wild in woodland and marsh areas and sends up its unique hooded flower in the spring. Though Native American tribes gathered and boiled the fleshy roots as a vegetable, eating the root raw causes a sensation similar to swallowing a mouthful of glass shards. This sensation is caused by the calcium oxalate crystals in the plant, which protect it from predatory animals. The faint odor, however, attracts pollinating insects to the flowering spadix, or “Jack.” In spite of its repellent aspects, early Americans found many uses for this plant, including making poultices to reduce inflammation or grinding the dried roots for flour or starch.
Jack-in-the-Pulpit Germination: To break its dormancy this seed needs a period of cold moisture, a period of warm moisture, followed by another period of cold moisture. Mix the seed with moist sand and store it in the refrigerator for 60 days, then move it to a 70-75 degrees F location for 30-60 days, followed by another 30-60 day period in the refrigerator before planting. To accomplish this naturally, simply plant the seed in late fall and wait until the second spring after planting for germination. In late fall or early spring, direct sow the treated seed 1/4" deep and 12-15” apart in rich, moist soil. Germination should take place within 14-20 days. This plant grows best in moist soil and dappled shade.
Growing Jack-in-the-Pulpit Seeds: These plants grow very slowly, producing only one or two sets of leaves in their first season and flowering after about five years. For the best growth, keep the soil moist and covered by a layer of leaf mulch. This plant will spread over time, eventually forming a colony that will last for many years; the ripe berries will drop and germinate well in the following spring. Birds and mammals are attracted to the berries, which develop after the flower fades. Deer avoid this plant.
Harvesting Jack-in-the-Pulpit: All parts of this plant should be considered poisonous, since they cause a painful burning sensation and blisters when touched or ingested.
Saving Jack-in-the-Pulpit Seeds: Jack-in-the-Pulpit plants can become male or female depending on their environment. After the hooded female flower fades, a large cluster of red berries will form; each berry contains several seeds. Wearing gloves, gather the berries and smash them in a large container. Rinse the mixture in a strainer, removing as much of the pulp as possible until only seeds are left. For best germination, do not allow the seeds to dry; mix them with moist sand and keep them in the refrigerator until planting.
Detailed Jack-in-the-Pulpit Info: Origin: US Native Other Common Names: Indian Turnip, Marsh Pepper, Cobra Lily, Bog Onion, Memory Root, Starchwort Duration: Perennial Bloom Time: Spring-Early Summer Height: 18-24 inches Spacing: 12-15 inches Light: Part Sun to Woodland Soil Moisture: Medium to Wet USDA Zone: 3a-9b Seeds Per Oz: 460 Produces large, glossy leaflets and a 2-3” flower with a green striped hood shielding a green spike.