Skunk Cabbage

Skunk Cabbage

Early Emergent

Recently I was on the banks of the Pere Marquette River and noticed a familiar plant crawling from the earth – skunk cabbage. It’s one of the early risers from the banks of rivers and wetlands in West Michigan and beyond. The plant actually creates its own heat allowing it to beat many plants out of the ground as early as February. It flowers in early to mid-spring thus getting early insects to pollinate. As its name suggests, there can be foul odor associated with the plant as well – and another reason why early insects find their way to the plant. By late spring, the plant is completed flowering and large leaves unfurl and can carpet a wet-woods floor.

Early blooming skunk cabbage

Stranger than fiction

Seeing the skunk cabbage emerging last week, it struck me how many things in the natural world seem like they fit better into a Dr. Seuss book than our world: Sandhill cranes and their pre-historic, rolling calls. Redbud trees bursting into bright pink in the spring forest of browns and greys. Great Lakes sand dunes. Eastern Box Turtles and their ability to completely, well, box themselves up in their carapace.

It reminds me to not forget how outstanding the natural world can be. And this isn’t confined to the woods either. Take a look at some of the outstanding, peculiar heirloom tomatoes that are available. Don’t forget to be surprised outside, and I’ll try to do the same.

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Pete DeBoer
1 Comment
  • Michael Wentzel
    Reply

    I appreciated your encouragement to get out and be astounded. For whatever reason, the skunk cabbage and I had never met until last year at our new house with a creek in the front yard. I was so excited to see this beautiful plant that looked like it was going to bloom all through the woods. And then I smelled it. Oooofdah!

    I was hoping you’d tell me it was invasive (but I’m glad it’s not, there’s a lot of it). Since it isn’t I’ll appreciate it as it is. Skunk cabbage huh? I wasn’t too far off in calling it the “Stink Lily”.

    April 11, 2016 at 1:52 pm

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