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Do you know this neat plant?

Posted by janepa (My Page) on
Thu, Apr 1, 10 at 19:13

My husband took these photos on his bicycle ride today and we are trying to identify the plant. We did some searching, but nothing matched. It was growing in a wooded area, near a stream, on what looks like gravel. There were others in the area. We live in central PA.

I also posted this on the Native/Woodland Flowers forum.

Thank you. Jane

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Do you know this neat plant?

An aroid? Perhaps a voodoo lily?

Neat plant, whatever it is.


RE: Do you know this neat plant?

Looks like "Skunk Cabbage" to me. An easy way to test is slightly crush a leaf and see if it gives off a foul odor.

RE: Do you know this neat plant?

Thanks for your suggestions. Once we looked up skunk cabbage we knew that was the plant. Before I told my husband what it was I gave him a hint about knowing it by it's smell and he guessed it right away. We have not seen it before the leaves made their appearance.

RE: Do you know this neat plant?

I grew up on a dairy farm in N.E. Ohio and as a kid our entertainment was romping through the fields, woods and swamps. In fact, it was common for my cousins and I to disappear on one of our jaunts and be gone for the whole day, generally not returning to the house until it was nearly dark and most of the time our parents didn't have a clue as to where to look for us, but that is another issue entirely.

One of the plants that we were careful to keep and eye out for was the skunk cabbage because it grows in icky mucky mud. Quite often you will find it in a deep woods and its mere presence indicates a swampy depression where one would quickly sink to your knees or worse.

If you look at the above photos you will note the purple cup shaped part at the base of the plant. That is the Skunk Cabbage flower and it generally appears even before the leaves begin to emerge.

In doing a bit of research I discovered that the Skunk Cabbage is a very unusual plant in the fact that it exhibits "Thermogenesis", which means that it is one of a very limited number of plants that actually generate heat. In fact, the Skunk cabbage can actually be 15 to 35degC warmer than the air.

It is believed that the plant generates heat for two reasons:

1. In early spring the plant can actually generate enough heat to break through the remaining frost in the ground or light snow covering, thus it is one of the first plants to emerge in spring.

2. It generates heat to enhance the pungent odor of the flower, thereby attracting flies, carrion beetles and bees to enhance its pollination.

RE: Do you know this neat plant?

The skuunk cabbage, by heat generation, keeps the blossom from freezing and killing the pollen. It blooms so early that is a necessary feature to insure propogation. Without the heat, it would die out.

Another feature is that by blooming so early, it gets enough sunshine, because later in the year, it will be shaded owing to its perferred location. It has to "do its thing" before other plants and trees leaf out.

RE: Do you know this neat plant?

Very informative.

35 degrees Celsius. Those little suckers can really cook! Three times our base temp... we could boil water.

RE: Do you know this neat plant?

Kinda looks like a Dutchman's Pipe, but not at the same time.

RE: Do you know this neat plant?

Wow whoever thought how important, intricate these skunkies are! Interesting read guys and pics, JanePa...

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