The “Jack” of Jack in the Pulpit is a spike-like flower structure called a spadix. The spadix is made up of tiny male and female flowers that will produce the orange berries in fall. The “Pulpit” is a large, single petal-like structure called a spathe that wraps itself around Jack like a hood or a preacher’s pulpit. Renowned American artist and Wisconsin native, Georgia O’Keefe was inspired by Arisaema and created a series of oil paintings in the 1930’s that closely examined its unusual beauty.
Though the name seems pleasant enough, all parts of Jack in the Pulpit are poisonous, especially the underground rooting structures called corms. To eat a corm of Jack in the Pulpit creates an intense burning sensation in the month, hence the origin of another common name of Arisaema– “Brown Dragon”. The plant contain crystals of calcium oxalate that, when mixed with saliva, become fiery daggers. If ingested, the crystals can cause upset stomach, damage to the liver and kidneys, even death.