Arisaema triphyllum


What You Never Knew About Jack

With a common name like jack-in-the-pulpit, it's clear that Arisaema triphyllum has a variety of unique attributes.  The plant was the inspiration for the poem below.  Take note of the large variety of organisms that are mentioned in the poem.  Special thanks to my friend Hannah Gibson for the image of the anemone.  To learn more interesting facts about jack-in-the-pulpits, scroll to the bottom of the page.

Jack In The Pulpit
By Clara Smith
Jack in the pulpit
 Preaches to-day,
Under the green trees
 Just over the way.
Squirrel and song-sparrow,
 High on their perch,
Hear the sweet lily-bells
 Ringing to church.
Come, hear what his reverence
 Rises to say,
In his low painted pulpit
 This calm Sabbath-day.
Fair is the canopy
 Over him seen,
Penciled by Nature’s hand,
 Black, brown, and green.
Green is his surplice,
 Green are his bands;
In his queer little pulpit
 The little priest stands.
In black and gold velvet,
 So gorgeous to see,
Comes with his bass voice
 The chorister bee.
Green fingers playing
 Unseen on wind-lyres,
Low singing bird voices,—
  These are his choirs.
The violets are deacons—
  I know by the sign
That the cups which they carry
  Are purple with wine.
And the columbines bravely
  As sentinels stand
On the look-out with all their
  Red trumpets in hand.
Meek-faced anemones,
  Drooping and sad;
Great yellow violets,
  Smiling out glad;
Buttercups’ faces,
  Beaming and bright;
Clovers, with bonnets,—
  Some red and some white;
Daisies, their white fingers
  Half-clasped in prayer;
Dandelions, proud of
  The gold of their hair;
  Guileless and frail,
Meek little faces
  Upturned and pale;
Wild-wood geraniums,
  All in their best,
Languidly leaning
  In purple gauze dressed:—
All are assembled
  This sweet Sabbath-day
To hear what the priest
  In his pulpit will say. 

Look! white Indian pipes
  On the green mosses lie!
Who has been smoking
  Profanely so nigh?
Rebuked by the preacher
  The mischief is stopped,
But the sinners, in haste,
  Have their little pipes dropped.
Let the wind, with the fragrance
  Of fern and black birch,
Blow the smell of the smoking
  Clean out of the church!
So much for the preacher:
  The sermon comes next,—
Shall we tell how he preached it,
  And where was his text?
Alas! like too many
  Grown-up folks who play
At worship in churches
  Man-builded to-day,—
We heard not the preacher
  Expound or discuss;
But we looked at the people,
 And they looked at us.
We saw all their dresses,
 Their colors and shapes;
The trim of their bonnets,
 The cut of their capes.
We heard the wind-organ,
 The bee, and the bird,
But of Jack in the pulpit
 We heard not a word!

In 1930, Georgia O'Keefe painted a series of pictures based on the jack-in-the-pulpit.  The earlier pictures in the series can be easily identified, but they become progressively more abstract.

When properly prepared, the corm, or underground stem, of the jack-in-the-pulpit is said to have a chocolate-like flavor.

Many of the jack-in-the-pulpit's near relatives in the genus Arisaema are known as cobra lilies for their apparent "snake-like" appearance.

As mentioned on the classification page, the name jack-in-the-pulpit refers to the appearance of the spadix and the spathe of the the plant, which correspond to Jack and his pulpit.