Jack in the Pulpit Flowers

The Jack in the Pulpit flower is a considerably unusual breed of tuberous perennials. A member of the araceae family, these blossoms are very tiny, and may sometimes be lost in the larger appearance of the surrounding plant. The plants are made up of trifoliate leaves that grow atop a long, slender stem. The inflorescence are generally a light, green yellow shade, and commonly sport reddish brown or purple striping. The spathe of these flowers tend to grow up around, and almost entirely cover, the spadix and miniscule blossoms. The Jack in the Pulpit flower is native to moist, wooded areas of Nova Scotia, and travels all the way to southern Florida.

Due to its unique, otherworldly appearance, the Jack in the Pulpit flower has taken its place in folklore and legend. According to some Native American tribes, this plant was initially thought to be a great diagnostic tool. The seeds were often dropped into small pools of water, and if they floated, then the patient would survive; if they sank, however, then the patient would get sicker or even die. The Meskwaki tribe also used the acrid seeds to poison their enemies during the heat of battle. Because of the acridity of the entire plant, Native American tribes were not the only ones to use them for trickery. Charles F. Millspaugh once commented that, because of the “caustic sensation to the mucous membranes,” many young schoolboys would invite one another to bite into the corm of this plant, thus bringing about the nickname “memory root,” as a person will likely never forget the feeling. Despite having poisonous properties, people eventually discovered that, when thoroughly cooked or dried, these plants have a plethora of medicinal uses. One of the first uses for the Jack in the Pulpit flower was as a contraceptive. It was thought that a single dose could stop conception for a week, while two doses would cause irreversible sterility. More modern uses include the creation of an ointment of dried root for ringworm and abscesses; a poultice for headaches and arthritis, and other preparations that aid in healing bronchitis and snakes bites.

Unlike other blossoms, the Jack in the Pulpit flower has only a single symbol directly associated with it – shelter. Because of this, these blooms are frequently traded between family members – usually mothers or fathers to their children – and they represent the safety and protection that the giver is offering to the recipient. Because of their striking symbolism, Jack in the Pulpit flowers are also frequently presented on 7th wedding anniversaries and other special, romantic occasions.

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