On today’s hike I stumbled upon a patch of skunk cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus) poking through the snow. Skunk cabbage is one of the first spring ephemerals, as it generates heat (through a process called thermogenesis) to melt the frozen ground. I also encountered plenty of vibrant mosses and a few fleshy mushrooms.
This alien-like thing is the earliest bloom in the northeast. It’s the skunk cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus). Cupped in a hood-like spathe, the flower-bearing structure starts off female, then becomes male - in this photo it’s shifting from one form to the other. Not only does this plant flower early, but it also makes its own heat, melting ice and snow and giving insects a warm place to rest.
Scientific Name: Symplocarpus foetidus. Skunk cabbage is a flowering perennial plant that is one of the first plants to emerge in the spring. Skunk cabbage has a remarkable ability to produce heat that allows it to emerge and bloom even when the ground is still frozen. During the winter when temperatures are freezing, the flower buds can warm up to 70 degrees, which melts the snow around the plant. Skunk cabbage gets its name from the unpleasant odor it emits. This scent is a way for the plant to attract pollinators that are attracted to rotting meat.