spring beauties. Actually, those skunk cabbage hoods (spathes) look more like elves's hats, or fat little badgers with pointy heads, than flowers. In fact, the flowers are hidden in those little hoods and for good reasons.
One reason the flower is hidden inside the spathe is for protection from the weather. Skunk cabbages produce their own heat to push back the snow, to keep their flowers from freezing, and also to help attract pollinators. To illustrate the thermogenic capabilities of skunk cabbage I set up this experiment. You can see the ambient air temperature is near 40 degrees, while inside the spathe the temperature was a high as 61 degrees.
Who would have thought I would be out taking the temperatures of skunk cabbages?
Don't do it, or some wet, cold, spring day you might be wishing you could crawl inside a skunk cabbage.
If you don't believe me, check out these next two pictures.
This spider set up shop early.
You might say "its on the ball".
The spider's shop is sheltered, heated, and the only shop open for pollen collectors right now
Bees find skunk cabbages to be ravishing beauties.
You would too, if you were huddled together and shivering with your coworkers in some dark place all winter. You even had to go flowerless, until you found this cozy grotto so laden with pollen that you end up covered in it head to toe.
Here I removed the spathe to reveal the object of the bee's attention, and the source of the heat and pollen.
The spadix and the hidden flowers of spring.
- Here is a pertinent article, Temperature Regulation by Thermogenic Flowers.
- Jack Sanders book, The Secrets of Wildflowers: A Delightful Feast of Little-Known Facts, Folklore, and History, talks about skunk cabbage and many other flowers.