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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Wednesday - July 16, 2014

From: Hocking Hills, OH
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Herbs/Forbs
Title: The Unusual Foliage of Green Dragon
Answered by: Anne Van Nest

QUESTION:

I was hiking last week (July 7-11, 2014) in Hocking County, Ohio and while in a gorge along a river I saw the weirdest plant I've ever seen in my life. It wasn't weird because it had bizarre flowers or bright colors though. Everything about it defies all I know about plants and I honestly have no idea where to even start in identifying it. It's not a flower, doesn't look like a fern, is too big to be a tree sapling, and it's definitely not a grass. It was growing in loose, acidic soil and it was about 4 feet tall. The only leaves it had were large broad, oval shaped leaves at the very top and holding them up is a tealish colored stem. The leaves aren't in any familiar pattern I've ever seen. The best way to understand is to look at it: https://38.media.tumblr.com/b9a98f24dbf3568df73a42b3d0af322b/tumblr_n8kebjuSuI1tawhpvo1_500.jpg It was all by itself with no other plants its height around it and it's the only one of its kind I've ever seen.

ANSWER:

You certainly spotted an unusual and rare native plant! Called Green Dragon, Arisaema dracontium is in the Arum Family and only has 1 leaf, which is divided into leaflets that are arranged palmately and radiate outward along the stem. A separate stalk has the flower (which blooms in early summer). The flower is green and has a long spadix like a dragon's tongue. Orange-red berries form in late summer. Young plants will not flower until they are 2-3 years old.

Green dragon is related to Jack-in-the-pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum).

 

 

From the Image Gallery


Green dragon
Arisaema dracontium

Green dragon
Arisaema dracontium

Green dragon
Arisaema dracontium

Green dragon
Arisaema dracontium

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