Mar. 21, 2018

skunk cabbage, Symplocarpus foetidus

Spring, glorious spring! Skunk cabbage season! The skunk cabbage story is now well known, but still it bears repeating. The ecology of these ugly flowers is utterly fascinating. They generate heat. One item says they can be as much as 60 degrees warmer than their surroundings. That seems extreme. But you can feel the difference if you stick a finger inside the flower bract that mostly surrounds the structure you see here. The heat enables the early bloom, and attracts and protects pollinators. These are male flowers. Some plants are only one sex, others both. As the plant ages, the root contracts, pulling the stem deeper into the muck each year, and protecting it from disturbance. Skunk cabbage grows in damp ground. Since it is so early, it really doesn't care if it is in forests or open areas. You can see and smell it in CT, DE, IA, IL, IN, MA, MD, ME, MI, MN, NC, NH, NJ, NY, OH, PA, RI, TN(E), VA, VT, WI, WV, NB, NS, ON, and QC. Ives Fen Preserve, Lenawee Co MI, 3/5/12.