Monday, March 4, 2013

Late Winter Walk in the Woods

Eastern skunk cabbage
(Photo from Wikimedia Commons)
In my quest to see skunk cabbage in its natural environment, Romie and I headed down the road to the woods where we go to see the wildflowers in spring.  Eastern skunk cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus) is the first to appear here, usually appearing in late February or early March.

Skunk cabbage smells funky because one of its pollinators is flies.  They're attracted to stinky stuff.  This plant has a cool trait though; its flower buds generate heat - enough to melt snow!  The temperature inside the plant can reach as high as 70° F on a cold winter's day.

We cross Poohsticks Bridge on the way to the woods.

I've never seen it in this woods, in fact, I've never seen it in person anywhere, in spite of it being native to our part of Ohio.  I suspect I've just never been out and about during the time when it emerges. Only the prospect of seeing a wildflower would get me out in the woods at a time of year when I've thoroughly had it with winter.

We didn't find any skunk cabbage - mostly just some grasses and moss were greening up - but we did see some lovely lichens growing on fallen trees. It will be another month before we start to see much in the way of wildflowers on the woods' floor.

Note the small stick that's threaded all the way through several layers.

I'm not sure what type of fungus this is.  It has a black stem and the cap
measures about four inches across.

One of the things I like about our walks down the road is that we have the most interesting - and strange - conversations.  Yesterday's went like this:

Romie:  (Standing, facing south)  I wonder if I took my gloves off and held them against my stomach in the sun, if they'd get warm enough to keep my gloves off.

Me:  I think it would depend on if there's wind or not.

Romie:  Yeah, I mean out of the wind.

Me:  Probably at this temperature (30°), they'd stay warm enough.  But having your hands inside your gloves holds your body heat there too, so it's probably a wash as to which would be warmer.

You know, there are people who think about these things when they're kids and then they grow up to become scientists because they want to know the answers.  I want to know the answers, but I don't want to devote my life's work to finding them.

Thank God for scientists.

Romie:  Yeah.

And an earlier one:

Me:  I wonder where the snakes are.

Romie:  I don't.



Christys Cottage Wildlife Garden said...

I hope some day you will see the Cabbage. These pictures are just incredible......they look like something from outer space! I really like the one with the stick. Walking around in nature always makes for some interesting conversations.

Erin @ The Impatient Gardener said...

Your conversations are hilarious! (I second the snakes comment). Come to my back yard for a good look at skunk cabbage. We have vast quantities in our fertile woods. I find it to be such an interesting plant, although I've never noticed an odor. It has almost hosta-type leaves that provide a really nice texture before the ostrich ferns take over all available real estate.

Alison said...

I so wish I had gotten photos of all the skunk cabbages that used to grow in the wetlands in back of my Massachusetts house. I wasn't about to venture out into that knee-deep muck to get them, though. I can attest that they do indeed melt the snow around them. I loved listening in on the conversation with Romie. Sometimes husbands say the strangest, or funniest, things.

Unknown said...

Hopefully the snakes were still sleeping...I have been known to try and climb up the back if the nearest male to get away from them. I really enjoyed the pictures. I think you should put together a calendar that all your DB friends could purchase.

Claire said...

I live in MD and the cabbage grows everywhere here, but only by streams or wet boggy areas. I have seen it bloom also, but you have to catch it at the right time, about now! So, I am going to take a hike and look for one as I would love to take a photo of one. said...

Never have seen a Skunk Cabbage - will have to take walk this weekend and search. Thanks for the suggestion. Many spring woodland plants should be out soon.

Lona said...

Such beautiful textures. I look for Skunk Cabbage on my walks and have never saw on around here yet. Maybe I look for it at the wrong time of the year???

Unknown said...

I would love to grow skunk cabbage. It has been on my wish list for a number of years. I think it is an awesome plant and love the fact that it releases heat. I hope someday you will get to see some in their natural environment. That would be so cool!

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