Symplocarpus foetidus (Eastern Skunk cabbage)

So excited to get out today (March 31, 2018) and find Eastern Skunk cabbage pushing up through the wet cold soil. As I mentioned in the last post, it is usually the first flower to emerge in spring because the thermogenic property of the plant are capable of raising the ground temperatures around the plant by 25 degrees F. It actually melts the snow around the plant. Additionally, the higher temperatures help to spread the distinct, foetid aroma which attracts early pollinators into the flower for pollination.

The flower (spadix) is actually inside the plant surrounded by colorful inflorescence called a spathe. The leaves won’t come out until later in the spring but they will fill in the entire area and grow up to 2 feet tall. I will try to remember to take a picture for you in a month or two.

Photo by Stewart Nelson, 2018, © Some rights reserved

Below you will notice the yellow spadix (flowers) surrounded by the maroon and yellow spathe. If the weather turns chilly the spathe will close up around the spadix to protect the flower. Although I haven’t verified it, I presume this happens every night when the temperatures drop. Photo by Stewart Nelson, 2018, © Some rights reserved

Photo by Stewart Nelson, 2018 © Some rights reserved

Another peculiar fact is this plant actually grows down not up. Each year the plant digs deeper making them very difficult to remove. They are native to North America growing in cooler climates from Nova Scotia to Minnesota and south to Kentucky.

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