Skunk Cabbage; Wisconsin's first sign of spring

February and early March might sound like an odd time to look for plants, but it's actually when our first sign of spring emerges! Skunk Cabbage might look like it's from a different planet, but its early unique flower can emerge during winter. 

It prefers moist habitats near streams, fens, and damp hillsides. What makes it able to grow so early is a unique adaptation to convert the starch in its roots into heat. This heating process inside the flowering portion of the plant can be kept at 60ºF while the outside temperature is at freezing. 

Skunk Cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus), it's spring flower that first emerges in very early spring 

If you couldn't tell from the name it's not a flower you'll likely enjoy the smell of. This "skunk like" smell will attract early-season pollinators and flies to help cross-pollinate each flower. Even with late-season freezes and snows this amazing plant can still go on just fine. 

What will help you find and appreciate this plant is it's usually not alone. It will form colonies in preferred habitats which makes for quite the sight in person. 

Skunk Cabbage often forms small colonies and can flower all together such as this 

If winter has you longing for spring this plant is Wisconsin's own little gift to remind you warmer weather is just around the corner!