Adapted from Jim Conrad's
Naturalist Newsletter of April 28, 2007
issued from Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve,
QUERÉTARO, MÉXICO

A TROPICAL JACK-IN-THE-PULPIT

There along the high backbone of the Eastern Sierra Madres one of the main features of the vegetation is the thing I've often mentioned here -- that many species are "relict," their ancestors having found refuge on those cool mountaintops when, at the end of the last Ice Age, the glaciers far to the north withdrew, taking their cooler climate with them. I've told you how magnolias, Sweetgums, hickories and many other species at our higher elevations give the forests a decidedly Appalachian feeling -- until you notice the orchids and bromeliads also present.

Still, on that steep slope above San Juan I was surprised when one of the volunteers discovered something close to North America's Jack-in-the-pulpit. It was ARISAEMA MACROSPATHUM, shown below:

Jack-in-the-pulpit, ARISAEMA MACROSPATHUM.

In that picture you can see that this plant's pencil- like "Jack" (the flower-bearing spadix) inside the enclosing, cylindrical "pulpit" (the spathe) is much longer than the spadix of the North's Jack-in-the-pulpit. In fact, this species is much more closely related to the lesser-known "Green Dragon," Arisaema dracontium, than the regular Jack.

Our tropical Jack was still unfurling its leaves. I've seen many Jack-in-the-pulpits at this stage up north, but only when it was still cool to cold during early Spring. On our slope we were all sweating like the dickens, so it felt a little surreal seeing this species so at home here in the tropics.