Sunday, February 21, 2016

First spring wildflower in bloom!

In my quest to deliver the coming gospel of spring and all things vernal, I offer up the news of our first spring wildflower, which is in full bloom. Yesterday, butterflies, today, flowers.

It is February 21. But while calendars and convention may proclaim that it's still winter, the flora and fauna know better. The tidal wave of spring's flora and fauna is in its gestation period, and visible diversity will only increase in the days to come. The early vanguards of spring are evident right now, especially birds. Migrant flocks of blackbirds are sweeping north, as are Killdeer and Turkey Vultures. Meadowlarks are conspicuously singing, and someone will soon hear singing Eastern Phoebes in southern Ohio.

And, the Skunk-cabbage is in bloom. I took this series of images today, in a local quagmire that sports hundreds of these odd arums.

A spearlike leaf juts from the mire, next to a liver-spotted Skunk-cabbage spathe. The leaves emerge and unfurl after the spathes have largely withered away. The foliage is far more conspicuous, too - massive cabbagelike leaves that form a malodorous carpet over the soggy seeps from which they spring.

The curious-looking spathe of the Skunk-cabbage, which looks like some sort of malformed witch's hat, is of course not the flower. To see those, one must probe into the depths of the spathe. For this photo, I peeled away part of the thick, leathery spathe so that we might see the spadix, which is the oblong column that bristles with tiny simple flowers all producing yellowish pollen.

I had a higher purpose for opening this spathe, other than just to showcase the true flowers for this post. Small flies and beetles are supposed to be the primary pollinators, and I've seen precious few (any?) really good photos of these bugs in action. So I parked my tripod-mounted Canon macro rig lasered in on the flowers, hoping for some action. Alas, nothing came in my short window of time in this bog, but someday I'll try this again.

1 comment:

Sam said...


You should also post a picture of the seed/fruit of the skunk cabbage. A number of years ago we found a strange object at the fen where I volunteer removing invasives. It took some research to identify it as the skunk cabbage fruit.

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