Week of March 20, 2022 – March 26, 2022
by Morgan Ingraham, Environmental Educator
As the warm early-Spring sun warms the earth here at Baltimore Woods, the white snow begins to melt away to reveal the wonders of nature waking up after winter’s rest. Among the treasures to discover are peculiar greenish-purple appendages peeking up from the ground. What could they be? Mushrooms? An old piece of plastic? Zombies?
Shockingly, it is one of the above: this is a flower, and it is the flower of our very own New York native plant friend, Eastern skunk cabbage!
Eastern skunk cabbage, scientifically known as Symplocarpus foetidus, greets spring early by emerging their spade and spadix from the ground when it is still frozen. The skunk cabbage is able to do this by something that almost seems like magic…they melt the ice and snow around them. But how?
The Eastern skunk cabbage can produce their own heat. They are homeothermic (i.e. possessing the ability to maintain their own body temperature), just like warm-blooded animals do. Only three other plants known to date have this amazing adaptation: Philodendron selloum (Philodendron Hope Selloum) and Nelumbo nucifera (sacred lotus flower).
Next time you are out walking in the woods, take a moment to appreciate the growth of these bizarre native wildflowers as they expand through the season. They really are Baltimore Woods’ very own sacred flowers.