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A Unique Early Spring Plant.

March 16, 2013

Skunk Cabbage

Early spring weather is upon us!  Although there isn’t much in the way of wildflowers blooming yet, I recently spotted an unusual plant that I thought was worth talking about.

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I’ve been down along the Scioto River in a boggy area a couple of times this month observing a very unique plant that likes to grow in wet areas in the spring.

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One of the unusual things about this plant is that its ‘blooms’ appear before its leaves.

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This plant encloses its ‘blooms’ in a pod-like structure.

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In the above pictures, you can see the ‘bloom’ (technically called a spadix) inside the purplish containers.

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These containers allow this plant to get a head start on most other plants in the spring by controlling the temperature inside through cellular respiration, keeping the plant warmer than the surrounding environment.  This is known as thermogenesis and it is pretty rare.

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This plant produces a rotten odor, which attracts early insects to pollinate it.  I’ve already seen some flying insects and a honeybee out and about here in central Ohio.

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This plant is known as Skunk Cabbage.  It’s not your average wildflower by any means!

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The pods almost remind me of pitcher plants.  Pollinating insects may be encouraged to enter by the warmer air inside in the cold early spring weather.

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They are quite exotic-looking.

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This plant has roots that continually grow down into the soil, making it difficult to remove.

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Its seeds will fall off of the plant after pollination to be carried away by critters or water to start a new plant in another location.

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Here a leaf is starting to grow next to a pod.

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I took this final picture last year- this is what Skunk Cabbage looks like in May.  The purple pods give way to large leaves.  It’s much easier to spot this way, look in wet places for its colonies.

Nature is amazing, isn’t it?

38 Comments leave one →
  1. March 16, 2013 11:39 pm

    Fascinating, Tracy – love the dark buds!

  2. March 16, 2013 11:55 pm

    That’s a plant that I’ve always wanted to see, but it doesn’t grow in this area.

  3. March 17, 2013 12:32 am

    There’s going to be a bumper crop of them here in Michigan as well!

  4. March 17, 2013 3:13 am

    Very interesting! Such a weird colour, too! I think we have these here too (or a similar species) but they are ‘escaped’ garden plants.

  5. March 17, 2013 7:25 am

    Very informative, thanks for the post!

  6. March 17, 2013 7:55 am

    I always look for Skunk Cabbage here too, and then the Marsh Marigolds. Beautiful and interesting post. Thank you, Ellen

  7. March 17, 2013 8:56 am

    Nature is amazing. Always look forward to your post Tracy.

  8. March 17, 2013 9:09 am

    Yes, amazing! Thank you for the beautiful photos!

  9. March 17, 2013 9:48 am

    What an interesting plant. I can’t wait until we get some signs of spring here!

  10. March 17, 2013 10:09 am

    Aren’t they wonderful? But they do remind me of alien creature-pods this time of year!

  11. March 17, 2013 10:51 am

    Thanks for the info on skunk cabbage, Tracy. We have a lot of it here because we have so many wet areas. Just another sign of spring!

  12. March 17, 2013 11:50 am

    What an interesting plant!

  13. March 17, 2013 11:03 pm

    I’ve heard of skunk cabbage but never knew what it looked like nor anything about it. This must have taken you a major amount of time to put together because of the many stages you have here. Thank you for sharing about this curious and interesting plant with us. 🙂

    • March 18, 2013 10:21 am

      Thanks E.C.! This spring is a great season for them, they’re all over this particular boggy place 🙂

  14. March 18, 2013 1:46 pm

    Hi. Thanks for sharing this amazing plant. We have them here in New Brunswick also. Jane

  15. March 18, 2013 7:49 pm

    Nice shots of this fascinating plant that gives us a good reason to go slogging through swamps on freezing cold early spring days!

  16. March 20, 2013 12:53 am

    Always amazing!

  17. March 21, 2013 4:24 pm

    We have them here in Connecticut, too. In the woods behind my childhood home was a swamp, full of skunk cabbage – thanks for bringing back some fond memories!

  18. April 26, 2013 12:29 pm

    Hi, I would love to include this post in the next issue of Berry-Go-Round with the theme “Smelly / Ugly plants”. You can find out more here:
    If you have any violent objections, let me know quick.


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