Facts about Skunk cabbage


Skunk cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus) is a member of the arum lily family, which is unique in the fact that some of its members are thermogenic. In terms of plants, this infers the ability to provide heat in excess of ambient temperatures. The skunk cabbage is able to accomplish this increase in temperature due to the large quantity of respiratory tissue in the spadix, as well as from the deep fleshy roots. The spadix is a fleshy spike, which carries dense clusters of small, inconspicuous flowers, enclosed by a leafy hood, the spathe. Early in the spring, skunk cabbage will begin to push its green and purple spathe and spadix up through the cold mud and snow. Due to this anatomical and physiological adaptation, skunk cabbage has the ability of temporarily maintaining a core temperature in the spadix that is 15 to 30 degrees Celsius higher than ambient temperatures (Knutson 1974). Even during cold nights skunk cabbage can maintain

this unusual warm temperature. This heat is produced by sterile male flowers through a regulated rate of oxidative metabolism. However, due to this excessive heat production, the flowers must consume oxygen at a rate much higher than normal. In fact, this rate of oxygen consumption is comparable to that of a homoeothermic animal the size of a shrew or a hummingbird. What this heat accomplishes is, it serves to volatilize odoriferous compounds (often amines or indole) that mimic decomposing flesh and attract certain pollinating insects.



Facts about Shunk-cabbage


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