Tag Archives: snow

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.

Eastern skunk cabbages (Symplocarpus foetidus) in snow. They actually heat up to provide warm environments for flies, their primary pollinators. Crum Woods, Swarthmore College, Pennsylvania.

October snow in PA

Enjoyed Christmas music on the way back from the barn today.  Saw 3 accidents, 2 of them fresh.  All SUVs, a trend that doesn’t seem to be rare and thus begs an explanation.  Do bad drivers tend to buy SUVs?  They’re certainly often the most aggressive, pass-on-the-right kind of vehicles, but you’d think they wouldn’t spin off into the snow at such a high rate.  I didn’t see the drivers, though…might all have been teenage boys, or the elderly (the two highest risk drivers, I’ve heard). Or is it just a consequence of more SUVs on the road when weather gets bad?