Monday, March 19, 2012

Down by the Water...

Down the slippery slope (particularly muddy with the recent spring rains) is a creek that runs along the property.  In the morning, from our apartment on the ridge, I can see the mist snaking along the course of the body of water.  The creek is a source of life for many plants and creatures.  In the water are lamprey and hellbenders.  It's as though these waters run backwards in time, hosting the most unusual creatures.  Along the shore, the unusualness doesn't stop there.

The wetlands flanking the creek are dotted with the claw-like flowers of the skunk cabbage with a plume of a new leafage.  Soon it'll be hard to navigate these parts without disturbing the strong scented plants... aptly named.

 Along with the peeper's song and spring beauty flowers, skunk cabbage blossoms are a sure sign that spring is here.  It's actually one of the first to bloom.

 The structure of the flower may be very unusual, but it is designed with a purpose.  The coloring and smell attract flies as pollinators.  This purple-red is typical of many fly-attracting plants... like pitcher plants or jack-in-the-pulpits.  The shape helps keep a micro-environment to surround the tiny little blossoms, and actually keeps the temperate around 70 degrees, even on the coldest days.  This is highly appealing for insects like bees, traversing the early spring to collect pollen.  Later, there will be broad green leaves.  These leaves help block out light on the forest floor and prevent other plants from encroaching on its turf.  The big leaves also make ideal hiding places for smaller critters hiding from predators; not only is it shady and covered, but the smell often masks all others in the area, making it hard to track.

I am fascinated by these strange beauties.  I didn't know that they were down by the waters, but will look for them from now on.  Another welcome sign, that spring is here!

4 comments:

Cynthia Thornton said...

I love the palette of this plant! Very rich. My last paper doll was inspired by Jack-in-the-Pulpits, with deep pinks and greens. Love that last shot.

beth hemmila of hint jewelry said...

Wow you just opened up a whole new world for me! I've never seen a skunk cabbage and always wondered what they looked like. And to learn how they operate is such a neat story. I love how they are secret hideaways for critters :) xoxo Beth

AJ said...

I had no idea skunk cabbages were so awesome! I love the bit about them being 70 degrees inside all the time. Clever little cabbages.

taralinda said...

Fascinating. I've never seen anything like this. What a treat that you see as an artist and interpret for us as a naturalist. ;)