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A Frost-Free Flower That Laughs At Snow
Posted on Thursday, March 05, 2015 by eNature
Skunk cabbage flower
Skunk cabbage flower
Typical skunk cabbage sighting in swampy habitat
Typical skunk cabbage sighting in swampy habitat

Most cars come equipped with a defrost feature. Press a button, and the ice melts from the windows. A defroster is also standard equipment on one of the first flowers to bloom in the spring.

The plant is called Skunk Cabbage—an apt name for something with cabbage-like leaves and a very strong odor. How strong? People compare it to the smell of decaying flesh. But there’s a reason for the stench: it lures insects that pollinate the plant.

Skunk Cabbage grows in marshy woods throughout much of the country. Even snow won’t prevent the plant from blooming. That’s because Skunk Cabbage generates heat through its own cellular respiration, enough heat to melt surface snow and ice so that its shoots can reach daylight.

Skunk cabbage is starting to bloom— have you encountered (or smelled!) it as you’ve walked in the woods?

(3) CommentsPermalink


We have many of these near us.  They do stink if you happen to step on one by accident.  You can see them poking up through the snow!

Posted by Danielle on 3/5

If anyone recalls the classic series, My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett, the skunk cabbage is what the dragon preferred to eat.  When reading the three books to kids, they are always doubtful that it is a real plant.

Posted by Jan on 3/5

We were southerners transplanted to Massachusetts for a few years. I had never heard of skunk cabbage until a neighbor and I went for a walk in early spring. She showed me skunk cabbage, they considered it to be a harbinger of spring, like the robin. Apparently it doesn’t grow here in the deep south since I never saw any.

Posted by Karen on 3/5

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