These are some of the earliest flowering plants I’ve encountered in this province. They are called Skunk cabbage, Symplocarpus foetidus. It occurs in wet areas and flowers really early in the season, then throws up big leaves later on. It is not common in the province, in fact this is close to the northernmost part of it’s distribution.
Prompted by an inquiry by a botanist in Korea who is collecting tissue samples of this species from around the world, I checked the herbarium’s collection: we only have 8 specimens from New Brunswick in our cabinets and they were mainly collected about 50 years ago!
Time for an update, I thought, and time for a field trip too (it’s been a long winter!) So, last week, the first weekend of April, Liz, Bev and I went out on a hunt for the elusive skunk cabbage. While quite large, the flower is a little hard to see at first because it occurs in marshy, wet areas full of dead grasses!
The occasion also gave us a chance to learn more about the ecology of this very odd plant, for example: it makes scent and warmth to attract pollinating insects; it buries itself deeper in the mud each year with it’s contractile roots; and it has separate male and female flowers.
Love learning about plants!