My life is about living with nature – here you can live it with me!

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.

Skunk Cabbage

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.

10 responses

  1. Great information on skunk cabbage Mon@rch! I didn’t realize they consummed so much oxygen! Poor desparate deer!
    I love this plant and can’t to see it for myself out in the swamps!
    Congrats on making it on the Birds Etcetera blog!
    Ohhh, too bad you didn’t capture the Bald Eagle – hopefully next time! Were your pants making noises again to scare it?

    15 March 2007 at 9:42 pm

  2. Good info. I’ll be looking for the stinky plant if I ever get out… And congratulations on your success with Birds Etcetera! Very cool. I had to laugh at Pam’s comments about your noisy pants :o)

    15 March 2007 at 9:56 pm

  3. @ Pam, this blog didn’t make it but “birdQUIZ” did make it (go figure?)!! I love Skunk Cabbage and plan on heading back to check it out! I do have other pictures of this same area later in April! Hope you do head out and get a chance to see it also! Just love spring!
    @ mary – do so check them out and look for some insects around it also! Like I mentioned, this blog didn’t make it into Birds Etcetera, it was birdQUIZ that made it. LOL!! Guess, I don’t talk about birds enough!!

    15 March 2007 at 10:02 pm

  4. Di Herron

    These are great shots Tom, these stinkers are amazing in thier colors, excellent shot!!!

    15 March 2007 at 10:20 pm

  5. Rick

    enjoy reading about skunk cabbage flowers. you don’t talk about birds enough? I am always learning about birds from you.

    15 March 2007 at 11:56 pm

  6. Great post about a much-maligned flower! Very interesting how they melt the snow, and as usual, lovely photos.

    16 March 2007 at 1:12 am

  7. @ Di – I love their colors! Thanks!
    @ Rick – thanks for always visiting
    @ Adam – thanks and I agree that they are very interesting flowers!

    16 March 2007 at 7:57 pm

  8. Didi

    Well.. I was thinking you could eat this,
    but now I learn is a stinky hot flower ! 🙂
    .. thanks!
    I learn something new and weird today.
    I wonder what would it mean if you give this to a girl?

    16 March 2007 at 11:06 pm

  9. ninehtotoo5

    Our patch on Bay State Road will have to melt some more snow after today. Your blog is giving me spring fever.

    17 March 2007 at 12:20 am

  10. @ Didi – you can but you have to boil it before eatting! Its somethign I should try!! Well, willing to try anything now days!
    @ 9h225 – it was really nice down there the other day! Can’t wait till it opens up again!

    17 March 2007 at 10:46 pm

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