Jack-in-the-pulpit Skunk-cabbage Golden-club Jack-in-the-pulpit

What are they?

The arums are a fascinating group and attract much curiosity for the peculiar appearance of their flowers. The flower cluster usually consists of a single, thin spike, known as a spadix which may be exposed (as in Golden-club) or surrounded by a sheath called a spathe. These Spathes are often colored dark reddish or blackish-purple, giving them a rather sinister air.

Where are they found?

Many of the plants in this group are adapted to a semiaquatic, or even aquatic, environment and can be found in swampy ground and the margins of lakes and waterways. A few, such as Jack-in-the-pulpit, are woodland species, flowering in spring.


This is a variable group of attractive plants, most of which are different enough to be identified without too much difficulty.

Golden-club     Orontium aquaticum

Local but can be very common where it occurs. Large colonies of this species can be found growing in the margins of lakes in the north of Cape May County. Flowers April to early June.
Golden-club Golden-club Golden-club Golden-club
Flower spike

Skunk-cabbage      Symplocarpus foetidus

Widespread and often growing in extensive colonies in seasonally flooded woodland. The leaves expand after the flowers have gone over and can carpet large areas with their broad, rounded surfaces. This is a very early flowering species and, along with some of the maple trees, is usually the first native plant species to be seen in flower in the spring. Flowers February to April.
Skunk-cabbage Skunk-cabbage Skunk-cabbage Skunk-cabbage
Early leaves
Deep maroon flowers
Fruiting head
Leaves enlarge after

Green Arrow Arum      Peltandra virginica

Widespread in marshes and swamps and along waterways, but often occurs as single plants which can be easily overlooked. The arrowhead-shaped leaves could be confused with a number of other water plants, but Green Arrow Arum can usually be readily told by its large size. Flowers are greenish, becoming yellower as they fade and can be mistaken for an unfurling leaf. Flowers late June to July.
Green Arrow Arum Green Arrow Arum Green Arrow Arum Green Arrow Arum
Green Arrow Arum

Jack-in-the-pulpit      Arisaema triphyllum

An intriguing plant of wet, shady woodland which is not uncommon in Cape May County. Flowers late April to June. The unusual flowers are usually striped inside and are followed by heads of berries which begin green and turn through orange to bright scarlet.
Jack-in-the-pulpit Jack-in-the-pulpit Jack-in-the-pulpit Jack-in-the-pulpit
Flower from side
Leaf underside (right)

Small Jack-in-the-pulpit      Arisaema pusillum

An uncommon plant of wet, shady woodland. Flowers late April to June. The flowers are usually solidly green or dark brownish inside and are followed by heads of berries which begin green and turn through orange to bright scarlet. In older books this is often considered to be merely a small form of the above species.
Small Jack-in-the-pulpit Small Jack-in-the-pulpit Small Jack-in-the-pulpit
Flower from front
Flower from side
Leaf underside (left)
light green

European Sweet-flag      Acorus calamus

Introduced from Europe. A localized plant, found in a few places on the margins of permanent wetlands. Flowers June to July. Flowers are peculiar, spike-like clusters of densely-packed, light brown flowers. When not in flower, the iris-like stems/leaves are easily overlooked, but the 'puckering' of the leaf edges is distinctive. Sweet-flags form their own family, the Acoraceae, but are quite closely related to the arums.
European Sweet-flag European Sweet-flag European Sweet-flag
Flower spike
Leaf with 'puckered' edge
Midrib of leaf is stronger than side veins