Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Small Jack-in-the-pulpit - Arisaema pusillum   (Peck) Nash
Members of Araceae:
Members of Arisaema with account distribution info or public map:
Google Images
Section 5 » Family Araceae
Show/Hide Synonym
Author(Peck) Nash
DistributionArisaema triphyllum has recently been split into several species (that are found in NC), and many herbarium specimens have not been checked to verify their identity. Therefore, for each of the species of the "Arisaema triphyllum group" -- A. pusillum, A. quinatum, A. stewardsonii, and A. triphyllum (strict sense), the website editors have mapped only records where the species name (i.e., A. pusillum) or the variety (i.e., A. triphyllum var. pusillum) is on the specimen label. Simple "Arisaema triphyllum" records are not mapped. As a result, the range map for each of these four species is likely quite incomplete. Nonetheless, A. pusillum has an essentially statewide range.

Weakley (2018) states that the overall range is from "CT, NY, and IN, south to s. FL, LA, and e. TX."
AbundanceWeakley's (2018) map indicates that this species is "common" in each NC province -- Mountains, Piedmont, and Coastal Plain. Based on the likely incomplete map below, the species is possibly scarce in the far eastern counties. The website editors have chosen to assign a State Rank of S5?.
HabitatThis species generally occurs in somewhat wetter spots than the more common A. triphyllum, being found mostly in swamps and other wet forests, according to Weakley (2018).
PhenologyBlooms from March to May, and fruits shortly after flowering.
IdentificationThe four "jack-in-the-pulpit" species are all quite similar, with a stem that grows to about 1.5-2 feet tall, and containing mostly three large leaves (actually leaflets) at the top, with two opposite each other and the third in between them (like spokes pointing to 9, 12, and 3 o'clock). These leaves are horizontally arranged (in a single plane parallel to the ground), are ovate to almost rhombic in shape, and about 4-5 inches long and half as wide. This species has a rather small flower, carried at the top of the stem generally a bit shorter than the leaves. The pulpit-like spathe, about 2 inches tall, has the hood solid green or solid purple, even though the sides of the spathe are striped as in other species. It can be distinguished from the montane A. stewardsonii by a spathe that is not fluted (i.e., it is vertically smooth) versus strongly fluted (vertically ridged). The Primrose Path website has an excellent summary of how to distinguish these species: "Arisama pusillum is generally a little smaller [than A. triphyllum]. The foliage is green below [i.e., undersides of the three leaflets]. The spathe is striped only subtly, and the flange is less wide and less rolled. The spadix is cylindrical or slightly more slender at the top. Where populations are mixed, A. pusillum is usually in wetter areas at the bottom of the slope, A. triphyllum up on the slopes." Thus, to look for this species, work in wetter bottomlands, and look for a fairly small plant, with the undersides of the leaves (leaflets) green (and not glaucous), and with an unstriped hood and lightly striped spathe.
Taxonomic CommentsMost references treat this taxon as a variety of A. triphyllum, as A. triphyllum var. pusillum. Weakley (2018) and a few others do give it full species status. Historically, authors have recognized the entities within A. triphyllum at various levels; genetic work is needed to better evaluate the splits.

Other Common Name(s)None?
State Rank[S5?]
Global RankG5T5 [G5]
State Status
US Status
County Map - click on a county to view source of record.
Photo Gallery
B.A. SorrieFloodplain terrace between Crawley's Creek and Big Governor's Creek, Piedmont. May 2015. MoorePhoto_natural
Select a source
Select an occurrence type