Thursday, April 2, 2015

"Warm-Blooded" Plant Emerges from the Snowpack

The ice has finally gone out, releasing the streams
Skunk cabbage flowers are "warm-blooded."  That is, the flowers generate their own heat by metabolizing sugars, just like mammals do.

The benefits gained by this expenditure of energy are several:  

Since warm air is less dense and floats on cold air, the odor released by the flowers rise up to attract pollinators.  Believe it or not, there are insects that think that the odor of skunk is attractive.

By generating heat, the flowers create a nice, warm, place for insects to rest on cold spring days.  So the insects come in for a visit and get coated with pollen before heading out for the next flower.

Skunk cabbage flowers!  The first flowers of spring.
And, the warm flowers can actually melt their way through the snow, popping up before any other flowers.

Excepting, of course, for this winter when the deep snow has lingered long past its welcome.

I usually expect to see skunk cabbage flowers by the end of February, even in the hills where I live.  This year I finally found some yesterday, April 1.