The Skunk Cabbage are in bloom

In wet marshy woodlands and swamps a curious plant is peaking up from the wet, moist soil. The Skunk Cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus) sprouts so early in spring that the heat of the plant’s cellular respiration from its rapid growth actually melts the surrounding ice and snow.

The large egg-shaped leaves rise not from a stalk but directly from the soil. The leaves unfurl and shade the odd-looking flower beneath it. You can just see the small purplish-brown flower in the photo above.

The purplish-brown flower blooms from February to May. The purplish-brown hood is the spathe. The pale yellow knobby thing in the flower is the spadix. The spadix is covered with tiny flowers.

The Common Yellowthroat Warbler sometimes nest in the central hollows of the large leaves. Sowbugs and millipedes are often seen on the decaying spathes.

Wood ducks, Ruffled Grouse, Ring-necked Pheasants and Northern Bobwhites feed on the seeds. The Skunk Cabbage is the first pollen source in spring for honeybees.

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