Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Arisaema triphyllum

...otherwise known as Jack-in-the-Pulpit. These have become quite popular lately and we've added quite a few to the gardens, but this is the good old fashioned one that grows in the woods here and which my mother grew in her fern garden when I was little.

The roots of the plants are quite poisonous if chewed fresh, however they have medicinal qualities when dug, dried and powdered. As with any of these wild things, I don't recommend digging unless there are just huge quantities of them in the wild. What I learned at Girl Scout camp when I was little was that for each one you dug, you had to be sure to leave at least a dozen there. Still good advice. There are also restrictions (usually no digging allowed) in state and national parks.

Harris (not sure just who Harris is, but my reference book attributes this quote to him/her) says that it possesses "the property of stimulating excretions of the skin and lungs, is irritant, and diaphoretic ... the powder of the fresh roots is used for apthous sore throat of children." And again, I'm not recommending any of this, but merely doing a survey of the historical uses of some plants. It is said that the tubers grated and boiled in mild provide a medicine for coughts and pulmonary consumption.

Native Americans used the grated, dried root as an external application for headache. The action of the sweat on the powder acted as a counterirritant, and caused such pain as to cover up the headache. I know that this is sort of a traditional idea, but I guess you just have to decide which pain you can tolerate easier. At any rate, only very tiny doses were used - one source suggests 10 grains of the powdered, dry root taken twice daily, with honey, to reduce that unpleasant acrid effects.

Arisaema is a very widely distributed member of the Arum family in both the United States and Canada and can usually be found growing in boggy, shady places. It is easily distinguished in spring by the 'pulpit' discovered under the three leaflets on a tallish stem. After bloom, if it has been pollinated,

you will see green berries where the 'pulpit' has been, which turn to bright red in the fall.

If you want to try and plant some of you own, pick the berries when they are dead ripe, squeeze the seeds out and plant immediately, either in a flat outside or right in the ground in a protected spot.

Sorry I haven't been here for a few days, but almost a foot of snow and losing our electricity all day Saturday kind of got me off in different directions. It is snowing now, though lightly, with quite a few inches predicted today and tomorrow. This was a very heavy, sticky snow and quite a few trees are bent over to the ground. I go out a few time a day with a broom and sweep off as much snow as I can to help things get back to being more upright. That usually lasts about a half hour or until I've managed to knock enough snow down my collar and in my eyes that I'm too cold and need to come in. We've had a few broken branches, but nothing like in last year's ice storm. Lets hope today will be just snow and none of the freezing rain they say is possible. At any rate, if you don't hear from me for a few days, it will be because we've lost electricity again. Spring will be here soon, I hope.


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