Thursday, April 23, 2009
Ode......R to the Skunk Cabbage
Or maybe I should have titled this post...EWWWWW de Skunk Cabbage...
Skunk Cabbage is one of the first Spring "flowers" we get. This also tell you that my pasture has some definite boggy areas.
Most people have heard of, if not know personally, the skunk cabbage. It's name is fitting as it has a "pungent, somewhat skunk-like odor". It's odor attracts small flies and other insects for pollination. These insects are in part the same species that are attracted to carrion....not a very endearing similarity.
I decided to read up on the skunk cabbage, as I know very little about it other than the way it looks and smells.
Some of the interesting things that I found out....
It's nickname is Swamp Lantern, which I can understand with it's bright yellow standing out in the bog or woodland.
The western variety is found from Kodiak Island and Cook Inlet, Alaska, south through British Columbia, Washington, Oregon and Northern California. It has isolated showings in NE Washington, Northern Idaho, Montana and Wyoming.
Skunk cabbage can also be found on the East Coast of the US, China, and it can be found growing in marshy areas in England and Scotland.
It is food for bears, who eat it after hibernating as a laxative or cathartic.
It was used by indigenous people as a medicine for burns, injuries, and to cure sores and swelling.
They would also use it in times of famine as a food, where they would eat almost all it's parts. Leaves are supposed to have a somewhat spicy or peppery taste, but I don't believe I will be trying them. If for no other reason than they contain calcium oxalate crystals which will cause a burning sensation to your mouth and tongue. (Makes me wonder if the indigenous people were just that desperate during famine or if they found a way to remove the crystals.....)
The leaves were also used to line berry baskets and to wrap around salmon and other foods when baked under a fire. (Bet that smelled appealing....)
Skunk cabbage can produce heat when flowering. Even melting the snow around it. Skunk cabbage flowers will produce warmth over a period of 12-14 days and remain on an average of 36 degrees F. (20 degrees C) above the outside air temperature. They actually regulate their warmth day or night! (hmmmmm is it an alien or a plant??)
There, that's probably more than you ever cared to know about skunk cabbage, but if you ever go on Jeopardy and they have a question about skunk cabbage it could be your winning answer!