Jack or Jill in the Pulpit


This odd spring of early warmth followed by a return to winter seems to have been to the advantage of some, the detriment of other wildflowers and trees.

Jack here is doing rather well down along Nameless Creek, the “spathe and spadix” of the odd flower coming up conspicuously before the taller three-parted leaves unfurl to shade the sex-conflicted plant. Seems I remember it starts out as Jack and in later years, becomes Jill–depending on which parts of the central shaft develops.

While I’ve been places that had both, our place lacks the green striped variety and we have exclusively the maroon striped, more showy version I like better anyway. I’ll be lying face down in the meadow again soon, though this shot will do for starters. I’d like one with a bit more mystery and GeorgiaOkeefe-ness to it eventually–to bring out the dark sexy side of this lovely form.

And by the way, while you may be tempted to cook up a mess of “Indian Turnips” as the plant is also called, don’t.

It’s stem and root contains calcium oxalate crystals that will lodge in your lips, mouth and throat like so many tiny needles. How do I know the sensation? Well, there’s another story.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. This is one gorgeous “Jjack (or Jill) in the Pulpit”. I keep looking for them in Lanark, but it will probably be several weeks before they appear.

  2. I haven’t seen those in the wild for years. Once in a while, the florist wholesale will have them. You’re lucky to have them in your woods.