Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Irregularly semi-annual skunk-cabbage post

A fine passel of skunk-cabbage, Symplocarpus foetidus, rises from the mire of an ultra-soggy spring-fed quagmire. It is a rite of early spring - for me - to stop in and check for the first flowering of this odd arum, the first of our native wildflowers to truly bloom.

I'm fortunate to live near a wonderful skunkery; a gorgeous spring-fed wetland that teems with the plants. So, in less than ten minutes I can be wetting my feet in the springy mire and ogling one of our strangest plants and a harbinger of spring if there ever was one.

The skunk-cabbage is usually right on time. Mid-February is very typical for the beginnings of a mass emergence, and finding the first flowering specimens. This is a 'tweener season; winter is still much in the midst of throwing off its shackles of snow and ice, slowly losing the battle with spring, which is rolling steadily north like a vernal steam roller.

One can be assured that these skunk-cabbage will be powdered with snow and crusted with ice, probably several times more. No matter, Symplocarpus foetidus is thermogenic - it creates its own heat, and thus defrosts itself. Nothing that dying Old Man Winter can throw at it is liable to do harm.

Proof is in the spathe. If we peek through the gap in the fleshy hood (spathe) of the closest plant, we can glimpse the summit of the columnar spadix - the structure that holds the tiny yellowish flowers. Several of the Lilliputian blossoms are visible, each dusted with pollen.

Take hope, winter is nearly vanquished, as the botanical skunks do not lie.

1 comment:

Mike Atnip said...

Thanks for reminding me. I have never seen the blooms (didn't know they actually bloomed until last year ... and I'm half a century old). There's a patch 200 feet behind the house that I intend to keep an eye on. Mike

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