Signs of spring blog seven

With fauna hogging the spotlight of the first six blogs, flora gets to bloom in the sun with blog seven of the "Ecologist's Notebook: Reflections on the Natural World of Western Pennsylvania," a report by Bill Hamilton, assistant professor of biology, and Deborah Sillman, senior instructor in biology, a team of Penn State New Kensington biologists.

“Skunk Cabbage on the Nature Trail” was written Feb. 19 by Hamilton after traversing the campus’ 1.5-mile nature trail. Also known as clumpfoot cabbage, swamp lantern, and polecat weed, skunk cabbage is a large, flowering plant found in wet woodlands, marshes, and alongside streams throughout most of eastern and mid-western United States and Canada.

Hamilton observed seven skunk cabbage spathes (the cone of leaves that encases the flower structure) that had pushed through the cold, wet soil of freshly melted snow. The odiferous plant is able to nudge away the snow and frozen soil because of its ability to metabolically generate heat.

“These internal temperatures may be up to 20 degrees Celsius warmer than the surrounding environment,” wrote Hamilton, who along with Sillman oversees the maintenance of the trail. “The skunk cabbage is a ‘warm-blooded’ plant.”

Hamilton has been blogging about the upcoming spring since Jan. 13. Recent entries include “Bird Feeders, Cycles, and Counts” on Feb. 12 and “Great Blue Herons” on Feb. 5.

For all of Hamilton's blogs and comments, visit online.

Media Contacts: 

Bill Woodard

Work Phone: 
Home Phone: 
Cell Phone: 

Alumni and Public Relations Specialist

Last Updated March 13, 2013