Skunk Cabbage, (Symplocarpus foetidus), a member of the Jack-in-the Pulpit family, emerges in early spring often before snow melts. It is a plant of wetlands and moist slopes, that due to strange internal chemistry uses oxygen to create heat, a process called thermogenesis. The flower sprouts first enclosed by a mottled purple hood called the spathe. Temperature within the spathe can reach 70 F. Inside the hood the flower, (spadix), resides, pale yellow and tubular. The leaves don’t sprout until late spring and die back in summer. The spadix turns black and releases marble sized seeds. Pollen produced by the flower and the warm temperature within the hood are enjoyed by insects including bees, carrion beetles and flies. Although the plant is toxic, causing burning and swelling in the lips and mouth, bears eat the young leaves and the roots, ducks, and grouse enjoy the seeds. The common name, Skunk Cabbage is apt, as the flower gives off a rotting meat and skunky aroma.
Native Americans dried the the plant, reducing the toxicity and used it to treat everything from headaches to epilepsy.
Keep up with the happenings around Bennington !
Click COMMENTS on any blog post to leave a comment
Subscribe to ALL GMC podcasts in your RSS reader using the following: