If you take a walk in a damp wooded area in the spring, you might smell this interesting plant before you notice its striking yellow hood. The hood surrounds a stalk covered with tiny flowers. It’s an intriguing sight—but don’t get too close! It grows on a plant called the skunk cabbage. It’s aptly named for its unpleasant odor, which smells like rotten meat. The plant stores food in its fleshy roots all winter so it can grow the hood and flowers in the spring. They emerge from the soil so early that there may still be snow on the ground, but the plant produces enough heat to melt the snow.
Why does the skunk cabbage put so much energy into producing its unusual, smelly flowers? As you will read in this chapter, flowering plants have devised many ways to attract pollinators to their flowers so they can reproduce. The skunk cabbage is no exception. What pollinators do you think its stinky flowers might attract?
Image copyright NatureDiver, 2014. www.shutterstock.com. Used under license from Shutterstock.com.