Welcome to Word of the Week! Stay tuned for a new word each Friday to amp up your nature vocabulary!
Spadix [SPEY-diks] (noun): a large fleshy spike bearing small flowers. The spadix is typically surrounded by a modified or specialized leaf.
On a beautiful spring day, if you choose to wander into the damper parts of the High Park’s forests, you might get to experience the joy of seeing Jack-in-the-pulpit. Jack-in the-pulpit is a beautiful wildflower comprised of a tall spadix that is enveloped by a cup-like modified leaf, known as the spathe. The unique appearance is actually how this wildflower gets its name; the spadix (Jack) “standing” in the pulpit-like structure of the spathe!
At first, one might think that the showy leaf-like spathe is the flowering part, however, the true flowers are actually the tiny, green or yellow dots that found near the base of the spadix, inside the spathe. The hood of the spathe acts as protection for the little flowers, preventing the plant from filling up with rainwater, which could wash away the important pollen. The yellow colour of the pollen, deep inside the plant, as well as an attractive fungal smell emitted by the plant, will draw insects inside for pollination. Smaller insects, like gnats, can fit through to the plant to complete pollination. On the other hand, larger insects, like flies, get stuck and often end their life in the base of the plant.
Though the shape and design of the plant mimics that of the carnivorous Pitcher-plant, Jack-in-the-pulpit is not carnivorous.
Keep an eye out for Jack-in-the-Pulpit on your next High Park Visit!