Such a Warm Stinking Flower
As promised, I have finally gotten around to writing something about Skunk Cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus). My interest in this flower started late last week when two of my friends were posting pictures of their first of the year wildlfower; Jennifer photo 1, photo 2, and photo 3 & Salamanderdance photo 1 and photo 2. But, after thinking about it, this isn’t my first wildflower for 2007. In January before the 2007 “Ice Age”, I saw dandelions growing out on the lawn. So, this really is my 2nd flower species for 2007 but, does very much feel like my 1st flower also this year.
You might ask why this is a remarkable wildflower? They get their name by a horrible odor that is produced and helps invite many of our early insects which helps pollinate the flower. You can also easily find this wildflower by its unique ability for the flower to produce heat and melt the snow around it (as showing in Jen’s photo here).
There is a wonderful website done by the Nature Institute which has a wonderful explanation on how this flower produces its heat. It states: “ Physiologically the warmth is created by the flower heads breaking down substances while using a good deal of oxygen. The rootstock and roots store large amounts of starch and are the likely source of nutrients for this break down. The more warmth produced, the more substances and oxygen consumed. Knutson found that the amount of oxygen consumed is similar to that of a small mammal of comparable size.
This other photo that I took has some appearance of something trying to nibble on it. I found this stunning website that discusses “How Deer Eat Poisonous Plants”. On their site they state that: In the spring, deer eat a lot of skunk cabbage, a plant that contains crystals of a poisonous compound called oxalic acid, specifically, crystals of calcium oxalate. Hanley has tasted it, and said even a tiny bit of young skunk cabbage can burn your mouth for hours. Those poor little deer but they do continue to mention that: It contains poisonous compounds, but it’s also rich in protein, critical to hungry deer after the lean pickings of winter.
Since I need to mention birds to fit the criteria for the Birds of Etcetera bird list (good news, “birdQUIZ” did make the list!!), while I was approaching the Skunk Cabbage location there was an adult Bald Eagle that I had flush from the trees. It took off too quickly for me to capture any decent photos but fun to see.