Today while walking in the Attleboro Springs Audubon Sanctuary, I saw Jacks-in-the-pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum) in bloom. The dramatic striped spathe shelters a spadix on which the flowers are born. This is one of my favorite native flowers — we used to grow them when we lived in the rental share in Concord center — and seeing their blooms today prompted me to learn a little more about them.

According the Extension service of North Carolina State State University, individual Arisaema triphyllum plants can change between male and female from year to year: “This unique plant, which is pollinated by flies and gnats, has the ability to change gender.  A plant that starts out as male can spontaneously change to female the next year and vice versa. …”

Or, according to another source, first year plants only produce male flowers; then the plant becomes hermaphroditic, producing both male and female flowers. In any case, as is so often true, our stereotypical human norms around gender and biological sex being determined from birth do not apply to all organisms (the stereotypes don’t even always apply to human organisms).

A fascinating plant. Makes me want to start growing Arisaema triphyllum again.

Jack-in-the-pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum). Note the two trifoliate leaves, the striped spathe, and the pale green spadix inside the spathe.

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