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Screen Name: JackorJillParsons. My real name, Arisaema triphyllum, is a tongue-twister for most people and my local nickname, Jack-in-the-Pulpit, is merely an observation about my physical stature.
Hometown: I’m a native of eastern North America and have direct relatives in every state from Maine to Texas.
Height: A petite 2 ft. at best.
Body Type: I’m a graceful, herbaceous, perennial with 1 or 2 large leaves, each divided into three leaflets.
My self summary
It’s probably no surprise that I’m fairly introverted and spend a lot of time in the garden or quiet, wooded areas. Spring is my favorite season to be outdoors, but I’m most cheerful in the fall when I like to flaunt my bright red berries.
I'm really good at
Tricking others into thinking I’m another plant that they are more familiar with; either poison-ivy or trilliums because we’re frequently neighbors in the forest and have the same trifoliate leaves.
The first thing people usually notice about me
WhenI flower in April or May I have a striking greenish-purple hood that surrounds my inflorescence of numerous small flowers, protecting it and trapping insect pollinators. This combination of modified leaf structure and flower stalk is what gives me the nickname “Jack-in-the-Pulpit” as it looks like a preacher standing in a pulpit.
3 Things I could never do without
I love the dappled shade of mature woods, need a reliable water source, and worry that a plow or bulldozer will spoil my forest home.
On a typical Friday, you’ll find me
Napping! Like a contented cat, I’m an exceptional napper and by mid-summer I often retreat into my corm (something like a potato tuber), saving my energy until I produce another cluster of subtle whitish-green flowers in the spring.
The most private thing I'm willing to share
Depending on environmental conditions I have the ability to change the sex of my flowers in any given year. Because it takes a lot of energy to produce berries I produce only male flowers & 1 leaf in a year when the reservoir of nutrients in my corm is low. About every 3 years I have built up an excess of energy in my corm and produce female flowers that will mature into berries by the fall along with 2 leaves.
I'm looking for
An unsuspecting woodland bird or small mammal to transport my seeds to a new location in exchange for some tasty fruit.
By Nancy Khan, Department of Botany, National Museum of Natural History