In the wetlands along the Cemetery Trail at Pardon Gray Preserve, spring arrived very early in the form of Skunk Cabbage plants.
Skunk Cabbage is able to generate temperatures of 15-35 degrees C above the air temperature by a unique form of cellular respiration and melt its way through thefrozen ground. Initially, only the flower is visible above the ground but there are enough insects emerging at this time to pollinate the plant. The stems and leaves emerge later after the plant has gone through its reproductive cycle.
Breaking or tearing a leaf produces a pungent odor, the source of the plant's name. The plant is not poisonous to the touch but the foul odor attracts itspollinators, scavenging flies, stoneflies, and bees. The odor in the leaves may discourage larger animals in the wetlands from damaging the plant.