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One of the most amazing plants in my back yard is the skunk cabbage. Not only does it have the distinctive odor of a skunk, it is actually a warm-blooded plant - able to generate its own heat during its early flowering season. The heat it generates helps it to break through the ice and snow in late February. Then, when the plant flowers, it helps carry the scent out of the spathe - the “hood” that surrounds the flower - and into the surrounding air where it will attract the flies and other insects that will pollinate it.
Studies done by R.M. Knudson in the 1970’s shows that the skunk cabbage can raise its temperature an average of 20 degrees above the surrounding air for a period of a few weeks. So I thought I would recreate the experiment myself - taking the temperature of the air inside the flower and outside the flower. I tested one plant from Feb. 26, 2010 to March 8, 2010. While my results weren’t as dramatic as those of Knudson, I did find a rise in temperature. This is a simple experiment that you can do in any wetland that contains skunk cabbage.