Hot-blooded plant

February 19, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

Skunk Cabbage, homeSkunk Cabbage, home

I didn't think I'd get a chance to take this picture in 2018... given the reality setting in that it doesn't appear likely we're going to get much, if any, more snow. Years ago, I learned about the mind-boggling ability of Skunk Cabbage flowers to make and regulate—a plant with a furnace and a thermostat... just amazing!—their own heat. The blossom is housed inside an insulated hood called a spathe, and Symplocarpus foetidus turns on the heaters in mid-winter. The idea is that the hot-blooded plant uses the warmth for one of several, not-necessarily-mutually-exclusive reasons, among them: extending the growing season; volatilizing the floral scent so its more easily detected by the few pollinators out in February; serving as little warming huts for insects; or all of the above. Whatever evolution had in mind, it's room-temperature inside. But the plant's insulation is not perfect, so some of the heat escapes to the outside of the spathe. The surface is not warm to the touch, but if there's been a recent snow, as we just had with the inch or two left behind by Winter Storm Noah, you can see the flower at work and melting snow.


No comments posted.