Anticipation makes my world go round. I find something, perhaps a plant, just beginning to emerge in the spring. I return to the infant plant often. Watching and waiting. Looking forward to its grand finale.
This is the story of anticipation from beginning to disappointing end, of a Jack-in-the-pulpit, Arisaema triphyllum. The photograph above, taken in mid May, is the discovery, of an infant Jack-in-the-pulpit. A Jack-in-the-pulpit full of promise, on its way to producing a flower.
What is thought of, as the flower of the Jack-in-the-pulpit, is actually a stalk (called a spadix) inside a tube-like structure with a top flap (called a spathe). If you would like to see the flowers of the Jack-in-the-pulpit, you will need a hand lens. They can be found at the base of the spadix, appearing as very small yellowish dots.
The hard for humans to see, flowers of the Jack-in-the-pulpit, are mushroom scented. Yum. Sounds delightful! The scent does the trick. The scent and warmth produced by the plant, attracts fungus gnats. The fungus gnats go through a complicated system which accomplishes the pollination, which in turn produces berries.
The object of my anticipation. The berries of the Jack-in-the-pulpit were beginning to mature in mid July. In the photograph above, the berries are bursting forth, through the walls of the spathe. Peeking out, into the world.
I get the first hint of trouble in mid August, as the berries free themselves of the last of the remaining walls of the spathe. My hint? The uppermost leaves, of this patch of Jack-in-the-pulpit, growing taller than they usually do, have been chomped off.
And then, the crushing blow. The clusters of berries are gone. The grand finale is gone. Along with the berries, something has eaten the stems, and has even left holes where the corms had been. Color me frustrated. No beautiful crimson berries this year, by the back porch.
The culprit(s)? My first thought is rabbits. They are always plentiful in the summer. Many hanging out, eating grass and weeds. Usually well behaved rabbits, but on rare occasion they will turn brazen. But no, the plants were too tall for a bunny to chomp. The plants had gotten to be more than knee high at the back of my cabin in perfect growing conditions: moist and shady.
My second thought, is deer, but a deer sighting here at my cabin is rare. And I see, on lists of plants that deer will avoid, Jack-in-the-pulpit (unless they are starving). I doubt they are starving. The woods here are lush with growth. In searching for an answer to my mystery, on the Internet, I find my answer.
Bears love Jack-in-the-pulpit. Bears! Yes! I often see bears up here. Now to figure out how to discourage their eating the Jack-in-the-pulpits, all the way down to the corms.