Monday, December 03, 2007

What could be more wonderful than an email entitled ‘Propagation question’? Mary asks,

Can we propagate Jack-in-the-Pulpit with the red seeds we have? John is most curious, I'm just hoping for more through some method not involving human intervention.

The answer is: Yes, you can, and be careful with those red berries (the white seeds are inside). Like many fruits, they contain an enzyme to inhibit germination (no point germinating inside the fruit, or inside of an animal or bird who eats the fruit - plants are clever). But Arisaema berries also contain calcium oxalate crystals, which really burn. So wear latex or rubber gloves to clean the seed from the pulp. You can sow outside now or in spring. You'd probably get a lower germination rate than you would if you sow indoors with coddling, but I assume coddling is the sort of human intervention you want to avoid. If you're sowing indoors, soaking them for a day or two might speed germination.

They are slow from seed - the first year you get one leaf (and not the typical leaf). The second year, expect typical foliage, but no bloom. If all goes well, you'll have flowers the next year, but probably no berries (male flowers only). But they will get there. You can also divide them - your patch is pretty established. Divide in fall rather than disturb 'em in spring. I divided by accident, when I dumped out a pot I thought had nothing in it, and found the dormant corm and its little offsets.

The Connecticut Botanical Society has beautiful photos, including one showing off the berries.

More questions, please!


Unknown said...

Hi Sara,

Should we just let the fruit dry out like raisins then harvest the seeds or slice the fruit open now and gently scrape the seeds out and let dry?

I think it would be way cool to have more Jacks in the garden.



SaraGardens said...

John, you can open the fruits now. I squished the seeds out - they're pretty big and tough. I rinsed off the last of the pulp with water. Do not forget the gloves! It's the kind of burn that doesn't just wash off.

I agree, more Jacks in the garden! With seed-grown plants you could get more variety of color in the spathe, too.

Anonymous said...

My Black Eyed Susans: I love the seed heads, like black q-tips as I look out onto the garden through the winter...must I remove these, 'cuz I sure don't want to. Since I don't remove, is this making for less than FABULOUS flowers? I also think they just need to be thinnned by ripping out some here and there (and planting down the street in a wasteland? Yes?