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Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

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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Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
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Tuesday - May 06, 2008

From: West Seneca, NY
Region: Northeast
Topic: Wildflowers
Title: Jack-in-the-pulpit (Arisaema sp.) blooms
Answered by: Nan Hampton and Joe Marcus

QUESTION:

My jack in the pulpit bloomed last year with the back of the spathe showing and the spadix facing away, similar to a child standing in a corner. I read on a site why this happens but now I can't find the site I was on.

ANSWER:

Thank you for clarification of your first question but Mr. Smarty Plants is still a little confused. As far as I can remember (it's been a couple of years since I saw Arisaema triphyllum (Jack in the pulpit) in person—they don't grow in Central Texas), the spadix is symmetrical. It isn't possible to determine a front or back to it so it is a bit difficult to visualize it "facing away" from the spathe. Is it possible your jack-in-the-pulpit had a spathe that remained erect like the one on the right in the first picture or like those in the second and third pictures? Is this what you mean by being able to see the back of the spathe? There are a couple of possibilities that come to mind that could cause the spathe not to fold over: 1) a physical injury such as being stepped on by an animal (person, deer, rabbit?) that damaged the emerging spathe, or 2) insect damage to the spathe as it unfolded, or 3) a genetic mutation (remote chance). Discussions with several knowledgeable people didn't yield any other possibilities for what you were describing or its cause. If we've still missed it, we would be happy to try again if you could provide us with a picture. Again, see the Ask Mr. Smarty Plants page for instructions (lower right corner under "Plant Identification") on how to submit photos.

We did learn a lot of interesting things about Jack-in-the-pulpit, however, such as there are male flowers and female flowers. The female flowers have two leaf stalks with them while the males have only one leaf stalk. They can switch sexes, but are either male or female, never both at the same time.

 


Arisaema triphyllum

Arisaema triphyllum

Arisaema triphyllum
 

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