Monday, March 11, 2013

I'm a Plant That can Melt Snow. What's Your Superpower?

Some people look for American Robins.  Others look for buds swelling on tree.  For others it's tulips and daffodils in the garden.

For me the surest sign of Spring in Md-Michigan is when Skunk Cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus) flowers begin to appear.

Three Skunk Cabbage blooms peaking up through the snow.

The Skunk Cabbage is a thermogenic plant - which means that it produces enough heat through its cellular processes that it can raise the temperature around it by several degrees.  This heat can melt frost in the ground or snow above and around the flower.  This heat may also help to spread the odor of rotting meat that the plant produces to attract pollinators.

These photographs was taken at Mission Creek Woodland Park in Mt Pleasant last Thursday (07 MAR 2013).  These plants grow abundantly in a cedar swamp along Mission Creek.  There is still a crusty layer of snow up to 8 inches deep in this of this park.  Springs and seeps prevent the ground from freezing here most years.  There were a few other Skunk Cabbage blooms visible around some of the seeps, but this was the only grouping of blooms that showed thermogenesis at work.  It will not be long before the snow melts and more Skunk Cabbage blooms begin to emerge.

You can see how the plants have melted the snow around them.

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