Arisaema triphyllum (Jack-in-the-pulpit)

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Painting by Debbie Bankert

Artist’s statement:

The structure of the Jack-in-the-pulpit closely resembles a pulpit in the New Castle Presbyterian Church, which was built in the late 1600s in New Castle, Delaware. The pulpit, a tall cylinder shaped box high off the floor, is accessible by 6 or 7 steps. The minister stands in a small area inside the pulpit. A flat awning-like structure, held in place by wrought iron arms, is suspended above the pulpit and acts as a shield over the minister’s head.

The tiny spathe of the Jack-in-the-pulpit is 2-3” high. When examining it closely, it sparkles with many soft translucent colors. For my painting, I increased the size of the plant to show its array of color. I thoroughly enjoyed painting this tiny plant. It was amazing to see the colors as they turned from soft greens to blues to violets. I applied each layer thinly so as not to loose the transparency of its gorgeous colors.

I obtained my specimen from the Historic Plant collection at Monticello. I used the live plants together with photos of the plant for reference.

Medicinal uses:

The aged root from this plant was dried by the American Indians and used to treat coughs, colds, sore eyes, and whooping cough. It was also used externally for rheumatism, boils and snakebites. “One teaspoon of the dried root in cold water was said to prevent conception for a week whilst 2 teaspoons was said to induce permanent sterility.” (Weiner) The corms were grated and boiled in milk for treating coughs and tuberculosis. It was used to “build blood”. Other known uses were to treat asthma, bronchitis, and headaches.

CAUTION: All parts of the plant contain calcium oxalate which causes irritation of the mouth and GI system when consumed. This irritation could become severe enough to affect breathing. (Newcomb; & )