For fans of skunk cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus), here are a several photographs of from Swarthmore, Pennsylvania. You can see the spadix (an inflorescence) peeking out from inside the warm cavity formed by the spathe (a modified leaf). The spathes are a bit frost damaged because they emerged in early December this year, and their thermogenic capabilities weren’t sufficient to fully weather the cold.
Here are some that emerged too soon and were damaged by freezing temperatures. There might be fully viable flowers within but I didn’t want to disturb them.
Finally, here is a photograph from a prior year to show what they look like when they are not damaged by frost. They look like porcelain replicas of rotting beef tongues.
Posted in Biology, Education, Photography, Science
Tagged blooming, eastern skunk cabbage, flowering, skunk cabbage, snow, spadix, spathe, Symplocarpus foetidus, thermogenic
A photograph I took of Eastern skunk cabbage appears on the cover of the Winter 2014 edition of The Conservationist. If you want to know more about the photograph, my original post is here.
Photograph of Eastern skunk cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus) covered with snow. I didn’t confirm with a thermometer, but these are famous for heating themselves up, maintaining 35 °C (95 °F) internal temperature even when outside air is below freezing. Heat helps volatilize the awful smell, which can be attractive to flies and beetles, but also creates a hot “room” inside the curved leaf (spathe) that surrounds the inflorescence on the spadix (hidden from view at this angle). But a more likely hypothesis of why this ability evolved is that thermoregulation protects pollen tube growth and female reproductive structures from frost damage. Either way, one of my favorite plants. Growing in the Crum Woods, Swarthmore, Pennsylvania.