Posts Tagged ‘Jack-in-the-pulpit’

Bang, She Was Special

Everyone called her “Bang.” Apparently she broke several bats, playing baseball when she was young. She was my Girl Scout leader through high school.

Spring wildflower hikes were one of her favorite activities. She knew exactly where certain flowers grew and when to visit them.

I got married, moved away for six years and then returned to Harrisburg. Her husband passed away during that time. They had no children.

I was a Girl Scout leader for eight years until both my girls graduated high school. By then Bang was housebound with emphysema. Friends brought her food and ran errands for her. She wouldn’t let me. I was her entertainment — I’d hike alone or with my kids, and then fill her in on all the details. She relived her experiences through mine. Many of the places were ones she’d told me about.

Her health continued to deteriorate. She wanted one more outing. It had been years since she’d hiked. My husband drove us. (I definitely wanted a man along on that trip.) We topped the hill where the road deteriorated and became an adventure. Ron stopped at the top so Bang could take in the view of the wooded hills, down across the low part, over a small bridge and start up a rugged hill.

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Bang sat on the edge of her seat. Ron drove slow so she could see everything. The woods were all leafed out. He pulled up into camp and parked the blazer facing south. Her eyes were so big. She was transported to a place of her own.

I walked off. Ron did too. I returned two or three times with a flower to show her up close. So, virtually, she was alone in nature with her thoughts. We were probably only there fifteen minutes until we had to get her home. We were seven miles from her house.

I can still see the sheer joy on her face. Those few minutes transported her into nature, and her nature “friends” came to see her.

She passed away about a month after our outing.

These were a few of her favorite wildflowers.

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 Jack-in-the-pulpit

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Celandine poppy

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Virginia bluebells

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Twayblade orchid

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Shooting stars

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Purple trilliums

A Short Afternoon Hike

I knew it was going to be a good outing when almost-adult bald eagle flew right over the truck. Adult eagles are 4-5 years old before they get their white head and tail. This eagle had a few brown feathers in its tail. I was so excited, I didn’t check its head.

The woods at Stone Face definitely changed since our last trip. It was so green.

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 Recent rains left a cheerful creek.

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 Jack-in-the-pulpit (Arisaema atrorubens) bloomed among all the greens.

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 The colors and lines of the hood created an artistic design.

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  Mayapples (Podophyllum peltatum) grew in large patches.

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Only the plants with two leaves bloom.

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 The flower blooms under the umbrella of leaves.

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Knowing that gemmed satyrs aren’t a tolerant butterfly, I had to stay where I was and zoom in for this picture.

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After such a pleasant hike, we had one more surprise on the way home … a wild turkey walked across the road and into a field.

Jack-in-the-Pulpit

Jack-in-the-Pulpit

The theme for our hike at my rural property seemed to be “green.” Buffy and I walked into the ravine. The trees were mostly leafed out. The west slope of the ravine, where it was burned was greening with new growth. The shrub layer of spicebush was all leafed out. Very few of the early spring wildflowers still bloomed. The sky was clear, producing a ravine canopy of mixed sunlit yellow-greens, deeper shaded greens and all patch-worked with the sky’s blue. The wind gave it all movement.

One Virginia bluebell had 3 flowers and 2 pink buds. Christmas fern fronds stood to mid-thigh. The creek was actually dry. We’re almost 4 inches behind in rainfall for the year. Water runs off at this higher elevation, and the creek doesn’t have water as long as lower-elevation ones do. The birds were quiet except for a Northern parula warbler’s buzzy call, that rose in pitch and came to an abrupt stop. The only other noise (besides our walking) was the wind.

Jack-in-the-pulpits were more numerous than usual.  A patch of them covered approximately  10×6 feet. I counted 68 plants, and most were “babies” about 3″ tall. The blooming ones were 12 or more inches tall. Only 8 were blooming. I pulled back the hood, called the spathe, on one plant. Jack, the preacher, stood in the middle with tiny dark flowers at the base. The column is called the spadix.

Tiny dark flowers at base of the spadix

Jack-in-the pulpit (Arisaema Triphyllum)  averages 18 inches tall; some can reach 2 1/2 feet. The plants have either 1 or 2 leaves, and each is divided into 3 leaflets. They grow from a corm. The plants bloom April into May and die back in the fall, leaving a stalk with a cluster of bright red berries. The striped spathe can also be maroon and green.

I researched online and found some really amazing facts about Jack-in-the-pulpit: The spadix produces an odor of mushrooms to attract tiny insects, known as “fungus gnats.” They fly in to lay their eggs, then become confused because the hood blocks the light. The lower part of the spathe is lighter. The gnats go lower and either pick up or drop off pollen, according to the sex of the flower. The way the spathe wraps around the male flowers leaves a small opening at the base where the gnats can get out. Ones that fly into female flowers aren’t able to get out.

Young plants are only able to produce enough energy to form leaves the next year. After several more years of growing the plants have male flowers. As they grow bigger over several more years, they then produce a spadix with male and female flowers. It then takes many more years of accumulating energy for the plant to produce a spadix with only female flowers. Apparently undisturbed populations can have plants to 100 years old.

In the fall, as the flower and leaf buds form, older plants can decide whether to be male or female. If there had been a dry year, the plant might decide to be male. That way it would only produce pollen, where a female plant would need enough energy to produce pollen and seeds.

I had no idea this was possible for some plants! (And I’ve giggled over the conversation a plant might have with itself on what sex to be next year.)