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Skunk-cabbage in bloom?!?!

One of our weirdest flowers and the true harbinger-of-spring, the fleshy liver-spotted spathe of a Skunk-cabbage, Symplocarpus foetidus, thrusts from the mire. I was at a local patch yesterday, Kiwanis Park in Columbus, and was at least semi-shocked to see the skunkers up and doing their thing. This is the earliest that I've seen them in bloom, by nearly a month. I usually make my annual trek into the supersaturated springy sites where Skunk-cabbages thrive in late February, and am sure to find them beginning to bloom by then. To be fair, I'm not sure that I've been anywhere I'd cross paths with these foul-smelling members of the Arum Family this early in the year. Nonetheless, I can't imagine that they'd be this far along in a "normal" year. And for the most part, this crop of botanical skunks was not yet in full flower, but a few surely were. The strange dunce cap looking thing in the photo is NOT the flower - that is the protective spathe, which forms a tent in which dwells the spadix. The tiny flowers speckle the exterior of the spadix, and to see them one must peer into the gap in the spathe. I've written more about the workings of these vegetative oddities HERE.

I had but a few minutes to snap a some shots of the Skunk-cabbage, because I was at Kiwanis Park to do an interview with fabled NBC4 TV weatherman Ben Gelber. We were ostensibly there to talk about conservation of riverine habitats, but when I saw that the skunks were up, we couldn't let the opportunity pass by.

Ben Gelber is a real jewel. He's very keen on the environment and natural history, and works in pieces about nature when he can. Kudos to the leadership at NBC4 for running these sorts of stories on a regular basis, too. Our brief Kiwanis Park clip is above.


Anonymous said…
I read this Friday right before heading out to do some property boundary inspection at the best Ohio fen not named Cedar Bog. You have written about it- named for a nearby road. While most of the skunk cabbage was pointy green leaf spikes, I did find one in the sun with a nice big flower. It does seem early...
Sharkbytes said…
In January? Well, we are mostly having non-winter too, but this week we finally have 10 inches of snow. I won't be seeing any plant for a while (till next week? we are supposed to get rain)

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