Thursday, June 13, 2013

Native Species Profile - Green Dragon

Most people who spend a lot of time in the woods are familiar with the Jack-in-the-pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum).  With its pair of three part leaves and a hooded green or purple flower composed of a pale green spadix (the jack) encased and topped by a spathe (the pulpit) is easily recognizable.

Jack-in-the-pulpit (Arisaema trphyllum)

Fewer people are aware that a second member Arisaema genus can be found throughout Eastern North America.  The Green Dragon (Arisaema dracontium) is even more unique and stunning than the better known Jack-in-the-pulpit.  While a mature Jack-in-the-pulpit usually sports a pair of leaves with three leaflets, the Green Dragon has only a single compound leaf.  (This leaf stem forks, giving the appearance of a pair of leaves.)  The leaf is divided into seven to fifteen leaflets, each of which is up to eight inches long.

Green Dragon leaf

Like the Jack-in-the-pulpit, the flower of the Green Dragon consists of a pale green spadix and spathe.  However, unlike the short spadix that hides within the spathe on the Jack-in-the-pulpit, the spadix of the Green Dragon shoots outward from the spathe to a length of 4 to 8 inches.  Sometime the spadix rises straight up above the leaflets.

Note the spadix rising through the leaflets just right of center.

On other plants, the spadix curls downward.  With just a little imagination this looks like either a tongue or flames shooting from a dragon's mouth.

This combination of striking features (large compound leaf and unique flower) make the Green Dragon a memorable plant for those that encounter it in the moist deciduous woodlands and floodplains of Eastern North America.  It looks out of place in its habitat - looking more like a species that would be at home in a tropical rainforest.

Green Dragon (Arisaema dracontium) - note the trailing spadix, hooded spathe, and large compound leaf

Overall this plant can be found in thirty-three states and two Canadian provinces.  Despite this extensive range, the Green Dragon is considered rare to uncommon throughout its range.  In four states it receives state protection for its vulnerable status.

The Green Dragon can be found blooming between April in the South and June in the North.  Mid-Michigan is near the northern edge of its range.  It typically blooms in Mid-Michigan at the end of May into June.  Like many inconspicuously colored flowers, the Green Dragon relies on scent to attract their primary pollinators (flies).  Pollinated female plants will produce a cluster of bright red berries later in the summer.

Jack-in-the-pulpit fruit - Green Dragon produces a similar looking fruit

If you are located in the Mid-Michigan area, Green Dragon plants can be found at Chipp-A-Waters Park in Mount Pleasant.  There is a scattered colony of along the Access Recreation Trail


Basic Information

Green Dragon
Arisaema dracontium

Height:  1-3’ tall

Habitat:  wet deciduous woodlands

Flower Color:  green

Bloom Time:  April – June

Fruit:  Green berry clusters, turns red in Fall


  1. Replies
    1. I am glad that you enjoyed my post. My goal is to make people more aware of native species that can be found around them (no matter where they live).