Reader question… “I just read your post on jack-in-the-pulpits and my question is about the red berries and seeds. Is it possible to plant these seeds and grow new jack-in-the-pulpits? If yes, is there a special procedure for getting the seeds to germinate, or do I just plant the berries?” –Amy H.

Fall is the perfect time of year for harvesting jack-in-the-pulpit seeds. The berries will be a bright red and have a very soft and fragile skin. Inside each berry is a large amount of juicy pulp and one or more seeds. I haven’t found any correlation between the size of the berry and the number of seeds, or the size of the berry and the size of the seeds…. some berries just seem to have more or bigger seeds than others. Remove the seeds by squeezing the berry over plastic or some surface you can clean easily… there will be a lot of “juice.”

There is some possibility that the berries may be poisonous, so keep them away from pets and children. My parents had some firsthand experience with how badly the berries and juice can burn when my sister was about two years old, found some of these berries, and put them in her mouth before anybody could stop her. So be careful, especially if you have children or pets.

Once you have removed the seeds, you can plant them outside without any special preparation except be sure to plant them in an area that will have partial shade and moist soil. Plant the seeds about one half inch deep.

If you want to start jack-in-the-pulpit seedlings indoors, the seeds must be stratified. Stratification simply means that the seeds need to go through a cold period lasting two or three months before they will germinate. You can simulate this cold period by putting the seeds in damp sand or sphagnum moss in a plastic bag and storing the bag in the refrigerator. After the specified time has passed, plant the seed as you would any other seed. In the spring, transplant the seedlings to a suitable location outdoors.