Wildlife Wednesday 03/20/24

Happy #WildlifeWednesday!

The first native spring wildflower to bloom in Ohio is skunk cabbage. Its flower structures are thermogenic (able to produce heat) and will emerge even through snow and ice!

The spathe, or hood, is the first part of the flower to appear from the ground and has a distinctive color combination of purple, brown, and green. The spathe provides protection to the fleshy spadix inside, which is covered in tiny tightly-packed flowers.

The plant gets its name from its stinky skunk-like odor. The stench attracts its primary pollinators, gnats and flies, but the warm temperature emitted from the flowers and contained by the spathe also lures in beetles, bees, and other insects.

Eventually the leaves emerge from the mud and expand into enormous cabbage-like foliage. The root structure is contractile and pulls the stems deep into the soil. After years of continually contacting, the root system becomes enormous and embedded and the plant is nearly impossible to dig up.

Skunk cabbage habitat is soggy and wet. Look for it in damp wooded wetlands, bogs, swamps, near springs, and alongside streams.

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