Sunday, March 8, 2009

Araceae: Symplocarpus foetidus

I'm guessing we aren't playing the family game this year, but I hope that all of you will continue to post what you're seeing throughout the year here on Get Your Botany On.

Everyone has probably already seen it, but yesterday at Kankakee Fen in St. Joseph County, Indiana, I saw Symplocarpus foetidus in bloom for the first time this year. The morphology of this species is typical of the family Araceae, with a spathe (a large bract enclosing the inflorescence) enclosing a spadix (a club-shaped structure with a fleshy axis), on which the individual tiny flowers are located. The genus gets its name from the aggregated ovaries (symploce is Greek for connection, and carpos refers to the fruit), while the specific epithet foetidus refers to the foul odor of the plant when bruised. If you were a fly, you would love the skunky odor emitted by good ol' skunk cabbage, and it would draw you to the plant, where you would unknownly collect and spread its pollen.
For more information on Symplocarpus foetidus and to read about the other signs of spring I have been observing recently, visit this post on Through Handlens and Binoculars.

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