Tag Archives: eastern skunk cabbage

Skunk cabbages in snow

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.

colin purrington photography: plants &emdash; Eastern skunk cabbages (Symplocarpus foetidus) in snow.  Crum Woods, Swarthmore College, Pennsylvania. They actually heat up to provide warm environments for flies, their primary pollinators.

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