Home of the Practically Perfect Pink Phlox and other native plants for pollinators

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Wildflower Wednesday~Green Dragon

Arisaema dracontium or Green Dragon unfurling in the garden May 18, 2009

Sixty years ago this neighborhood was on the forested outskirts of Nashville. Our house was built in 1959 and the first owners planted trees to compliment the giant oak that stood sentinel over the small woods at the back of the property. In the woods and throughout the yard wildflowers of the Central South continued to flourish!

The spring after we moved here... I noticed the Green Dragon growing in a grassy damp spot. A dizzy view but you can see the palmate leaf structure

Arisaema dracontium has only one true leaf. The leaf stem forks giving the appearance of two separate leaves. Each then divided into 5–15 unequal leaflets which are arranged palmately on the tip of the forked stem. I've measured them and when happy can grow to be over three foot tall with a 15 inch leaf spread. They make a nice statement en mass.

I gently dug up the plant careful to get the corm and planted him in my first small wildflower garden. He survived and thrived.

The offspring of the original GD are still there...
Growing among the Christmas Ferns and native ginger

But, then I began to notice it dotted about the other shady garden beds. I hadn't transplanted them or seeded them.
Geranium maculatum 'Espresso', Phlox divaricata, Heuchera at the base of Oakleaf Hydrangea

The seeds have to be dispersed somehow and these are not plants that shoot them across the garden like witch hazels! ripe seed heads (Albert Vicks, Lady Bird Johnson Center photo)

Wild turkey is thought to eat them and wood thrush...I've seen neither here. I wonder if ants may be the dispersers. Ants are responsible for dispersing the seeds of as much as a third of the plants at the understory of North Eastern deciduous forests. They carry the seeds away...eat the protective protein cover and deposit the seeds in their midden! (Yep, ants have middens...their equivalent of a compost pile! Their waste dump!) So, maybe ants are carrying them to new locations.

Flowering stalk described a s a long flickering lizards tongue!

Green Dragon and his progeny seem quite happy here at Clay and Limestone....especially with all the rain we've had this spring. The wildflower books recommend rich, moist soil in dappled shade. They are found growing in deciduous forests in the Eastern half of North America. Just give them a little water if they dry out and they will be happy in your shadier gardens.
"A separate flower stalk hold the perennial’s unique blossom. One greenish, long-tipped spadix (the dragon’s tongue) protruding several inches beyond a narrow green spathe. It is a narrow, greenish, hooded, cylinder with a long, upward-pointing tongue. There are numerous tiny flowers crowded onto the 6-inch-long flower stem, the lower part of which is enclosed within the leaf stem. The white flowers are very small, with no petals or sepals." (Lady Bird Johnson Center said it better then I could)
Green Dragon with Wild Ginger

I like Green Dragon. His cousin Jack in The Pulpit may have a more colorful flower, but these leaves bring an interesting look to a wildflower garden.

My friends~~thank you for stopping by~~I hope you have a delicious day filled with gardening, friendship and adventure.



  1. That's a good theory about ants. They are hard workers and very mobile around the garden. But why is the one view "dizzy"? I planted a few Jack in the pulpits the other day. They seemed to transplant very easily and are looking fine.

  2. Hi Gail, what a cool guy, love the name too! My mailman, Claude da mailman, gave me seeds of this last year and they were duly planted. Nothing yet, but I now know what to look for! Thanks for that about the ants. We have decided this is ant world here.

  3. Yup, you helped me too. I'll will look for this plant. I mean if I hadn't seen your penstemon I'd still be pulling mine and I must say-I love that one! GD is quite interesting too.

  4. Good morning Frances, Tina and Monica~~It's a great little plant. You will enjoy it. I am off to take a walk, it's chilly out and I think this might be our last cool day before summer descends on us! I'll be answering comments and questions after I get the last of my plants planted and supervise the painters!. See you all.


  5. Gail, what a cool plant. It reminds me a little of my Pinellia tripartita (Dragon's Tongue)but with much better leaf form. Now...I wonder if it would be hardy here? Off to Gardens North to see if she's got seed....(couldn't wait - she does & it's good to CDN Zone 4!) Who ever said blogs cost nothing?

  6. Hi Gail, it's a very unique plant. Never seen it around here. I googled it to see if it was a native in my area, which it is. I can see the similarities to Jack in to Pulpit.

    Since you have such a nice collection of them, you might consider contacting your local wild flower society and asking them if they would like some seeds or young plants to relocate into a protected park or wildlife area. The site I read said it was becoming quite rare in the wild.


  7. Very interesting! I love those forked leaves, almost primitive looking and those tongue shaped flower. Fantastic! I might try to get some for the shade. Seems to have a lot of virtues.

  8. Gail,

    Nice posting! Thanks for reminding me of Green Dragon. There is a hard to get to spot along the Eno River where it grows in mass, only been there once and it was a first sighting for me. I'll have to find my way back someday.

  9. Everytime I visit I learn something!!

  10. Very neat leaf pattern. I like the name too!

  11. Hi Gail! Very nice post. I like the leaves a lot!

  12. Yes, what a cool leaf and what an interesting little red seed heads you have there!

  13. Hi Gail.

    Very different looking leaf isn't it? I like it a lot, the 'fruit' looks very poisonous though.

    LOLove Tyra

  14. Gail, I've never heard or seen this lovely plant before. It is very unusual. I'm glad you have them.

  15. This is indeed an interesting world in which we live!! The variety of plant life alone is staggering, isn't it?? This is quite beautiful. One might just walk by it without understanding its complexity! Thanks for the info!! Have a great day, yourself! ;-)

  16. Green dragon is a cool plant for sure Gail. I'm not familiar with him but I do know and love his cousin. Neither of which would probably do well in my dry, non-humid climate. I've been tempted to try Jack before then always shy away because I don't want any more hand watering than I already do! I bet you have many plants appreciating the wet spring you've had?

  17. Hi Gail....so interesting regarding the ants....I did not realise this......you are never too old to learn....

    I love wild flowers......they are always a bit special don't you think?

    I think your Jack in the Pulpit is the same as our Lords and Ladies....I seem to remember seeing wildflowers last year, on Lisa's blog......

    When you have a minute would you be so kind as to pop over and put me out of my misery.....my mystery plant is in bloom!!

    Always a pleasure to visit.....

  18. Lots of Jack-in-the-Pulpit here but I have not seen Green Dragon. Very interesting-looking plant!

  19. My botany lesson for the day, and very interesting.

    I looked at Floridata and it seems Arisaema dracontium grows around here, too. I'll look for it, Gail, Thanks.

  20. "Green dragon and Wild Ginger" sounds like an escapade one wouldn't want to miss! I love green plants and ones with the name dragon in them have got to be good.

  21. Gail, I love the name of this plant. And will be waiting to see the bloom. Wildflowers are usually such delicate little things, but this one looks massive. Strong enough to stand it's own.

    Ants have a composte pile?? The things you learn from blogging. :)

    Can't wait to see you at Spring Fling!

  22. Hi everyone~~ I'm glad you all appreciate interesting looking greenery with odd flowers! Green Dragon is all of that. I checked and there are several New England states that have GD on the endangered list, but not TN.


  23. I love native arisaemas and didn't know about this one. It's a nice idea that you might be one to give it a new lease on life in your area.

    Seed distribution by ants! I had no idea that they were so important that way. Always more to learn...

  24. What an interesting wildflower. You have the most unusual natives in your garden Gail. :)

  25. Thanks for the informations. I have seen it, but never knew what it was. Now I can make a connection.

  26. How interesting, Gail! I am not familiar with the Green dragon, and I never knew that ants also dispersed seeds. I'm certainly learning something new each day. I can believe that ants, though, would have a compost pile, if any creature did:)

    Sunny skies today, and I'm not working at school--time to get a-planting!

  27. How lovely with wild flowers. Here, I am trying to swop a piece at the time of the flat, square lawn, with perennials. Woodlands are in the vicinty, but it is a bit of a walk.

    Have a great day!

  28. I'd love to have a woodsy shaded area for growing these interesting plants.

    Thank you so much, Gail for the link you gave me on the feed issue. I read it, and it seems like it might have the answers I need. I just need to find someone who understands more about this than I do to help me fix it.

    Hope you have a wonderful day!

  29. What interesting info about the ants! I had never heard of that before. Little pests get around, don't they?

  30. Gosh Gail, I have never heard of this plant. It sounds great.

    I am just back from vacation and I am trying to get around to everyones blogs to catch up on my reading. Times like these I think I read too many blogs. ha..can't help myself.

  31. Gail, everything looks so green and lush in your wildflower garden. One can never have too much ant information; it was interesting and fun, especially the midden part!

  32. I love your description of the history of your garden and of this plant in particular. (By the way, Nassella tenuissima is really weedy here. Hope you don't have that problem in Tennessee.)

  33. Ooh, I love Green Dragons! Great pics!

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"Insects are the little things that run the world." Dr. E O Wilson