Arisaema dracontium (L.) Schott (green dragon)

The green dragon is a relative of skunk cabbage and jack-in-the-pulpit—all three in the genus Arisaema. The species worldwide have an unusual trait - sequential hermaphroditism.

The flowers, borne on the central spadix (the Jack of Jack-in-the-pulpit), are all male when small, and as they mature and become larger, they change to be female or hermaphroditic, both male and female. If a large plant is damaged and doesn’t grow the next year, it will change back to being male.

They are long-lived plants and may switch back over a 20-year span.

This plant, in a small colony, has a story. I once saw a very nice stand on an island in the Allegheny River. When I wanted to make a portrait, I didn’t have a boat to get back to the island, so I called a friend who told me about a good stand. I spent the day searching without finding a green dragon. The next day I got in touch with a former staff member involved in the Pennsylvania Natural History Inventory. They told me of a nearer location. This time the colony was in a Pittsburgh City Park less than a quarter-mile from the apartment!

Specific Feedback Requested

I’m always interested in hearing both graphic design and photographic-oriented comments.

Technical Details

Is this a composite: No

The background has not been replaced but is a lightbox with a flash. Frontal lighting also flashes. The 3 flashes were synced and output adjusted with an accessory controller.
100 mm, f22, ISO 320.

The plant was photographed in situ.

Talk about barely there - at least from this angle. Standing over/next to one probably has more of an effect. Not sure how I feel about this except that…well I can’t get much of a sense of the plant. Graphically it’s as arresting as ever, but more abstract and odd than usual.

Your quest for these sounds like mine and bloodroot when I was in NH.

Kris, Thank you.

I always enjoy your candidness. Frankly, you hit the spath on the spadix. The plant is “barely there.” The “flower” is small on a long pedicel and inconspicuous, especially when it is small. I know where they are, and every year it takes time to find the plants right in front of me.

It was suspected that this colony was the cultivated variety, but it’s the native once carefully examined.

The land belonged to the Frick family and was given to Pittsburgh. What makes that unusual is that this is a heavily used city park where disturbances have occurred over many years.

But back to the image. I intentionally stayed low to highlight the flower and keep the umbrella spread of leaves from dominating. It’s the minimalism of the portrait that was important to me. I wonder if the image is more about simple lines and less about being a plant.

I just wanted to see what, if any, reaction the photograph was generated.


Paul: I do like the graphic nature of this and while it might not be a compelling or “Oh wow!” subject I think the comp and design work very well. I might like a smidge more room on the top but that’s a pretty small nit. Nicely done. >=))>

The secondary stem adds a great deal to the image. I agree with Bill that a little more room at the top is needed. Otherwise a stellar image.

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I agree @Bill_Fach , it does need more room at the top. The only problem is that Lightroom only seems to have inches, centimeters, and pixels. What version do you have? @Patricia_Brundage does your software have a “smidge”?


Paul. No smidge, just add canvas on top and use fill/content aware in PS.

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