Saturday, March 25, 2023

Hunting the First Wildflower

 I am that strange person that delights busting through brush and briars to get to certain places in the spring to find that first wildflower.

It isn't a pretty wildflower and it doesn't even smell nice. It is the Skunk Cabbage.

Interesting enough, the Skunk Cabbage can push up through frozen ground and the bulb can create heat up to 70 degrees F to melt snow from around it.

Symplocarpus foetidus

While definitely not the prettiest wildflower, I find it one of the most interesting. It can create its own heat [thermogenic]. It smells bad because it attracts pollinators that like rotting meat.

Most animals avoid eating the plants as they emerge as the leaves create a burning sensation in their mouths.

The plants themselves like wet forests and stream banks. I find these near the Big Spring in PeeWee's Valley. 

The trek there is not an easy one any more. Years ago the brother that lived on the land had cattle that kept the land well grazed. 13 years ago the cattle left the land and the land has gone wild. Charlie and I explore the valleys in the late fall through late spring. In midsummer, the land is choked with tall Parsnip, brambles, and other plants. 

By June the grasses and other plants around the stream will be nearly 4 feet tall.

But for now, we will still enjoy wandering along the creek looking for cool things.

Antler shed and Iron Concretion.

Anytime it is cold but windy and sunny, I can walk in the valley and enjoy the weather without dealing with the cold winds. I took off my insulated flannel and hung it on a tree branch while walking east along the stream. I picked it up when I headed back home.

Charlie was a mud puppy. I had to rinse him off.

I'm so glad he is so easy going. When I got him out of the tub, I just laid him on his side and he let me towel him off. 

The marsh marigolds shouldn't be far behind as I saw them just emerging in the Big Spring. I'll go back towards the end of next week to see if I can find any blossoms.

I'm pretty lucky to have this land near us. There are easier trails to be found at the Kickapoo Valley Reserve or one of our many County Parks. Duck Egg has an abundance of wildflowers in the lower trail that burst with Ephemeral flowers each spring.

I can't wait.

To find more Spring Wildflowers.


  1. Skunk cabbage is amazing, the power to generate its own heat has always amazed me. We have it around here, and wise house hunters don't buy land where it's growing -- they know it's flood prone, even if dry at the moment. City folk, incoming, not so wise, some sad tales of regularly flooding basements etc

    1. That is absolutely true. The areas I find Skunk Cabbage are generally filled with water from a hillside flash flood into the valley where they grow.
      The Big Spring that is near where they first appear has an enormous amount of water flow which is at a constant 45 degree temperature.
      I've never seen it frozen over even in -15 degrees F or lower!

  2. You found signs of Spring!! Other early bloomers won't be far off. I looked up "Iron Concretion" interesting stuff. Charlie sure is an easy going guy!

    1. Rich calls them Poop Rocks because they look like a pile of scat in some cases. The grand kids picked up on that name and of course loved hunting for them.

  3. A certain sign that Spring will come...sooner or later! Charlie is a sweetie:)

    1. Indeed they are! But a lot of areas still don't have them yet. This spot always has them first!

  4. Skunk cabbage is new to me. I find it interesting that it can create that much heat. We are still under at least a foot of snow, which is now slowly melting.

    1. I thought the fact that they create heat very surprising. and cool.
      We have snow and ice in the woods yet, but it too is slowly melting. Not anything like what you have!

  5. I am glad you are looking for spring. I see my tulips and many I will have a surprise crocus or two. We just need to warm up some more. It is going to snow in the morning and thaw in the afternoon. I really like Charlie.


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