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PVML Phlog: 
Fratchkes & Brucescaps

Facinating Woodland Flowers

Eastern Swamp Cabbage Emerging through Leaf Litter
Eastern Swamp Cabbage Emerges in the Spring

In walking through the woods, I find it refreshing to see a break in the carpet of leaf litter

that coats the forest floor. Sometimes there are tender ephemerals that sporadically pop up. The florals add color and interest to the browns of the wrinkled leaves. Some are unquestionably beautiful, others are more interesting or unique.

Such is the case with Eastern Swamp Cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus). Swamp Cabbage commonly appears in the Hudson Valley in early spring. It is a thought-provoking plant because it is able to generate its own heat during its reproductive phase.

Most plants have adaptations that allow them to trap/reflect heat or retain/release moisture. Those protective mechanisms aren’t the same as the internal regulation systems that mammals and birds have. Internal temperature regulation is possible among thermogenic plants, however.  And Eastern Swamp Cabbage gets so hot that it can melt through snow!

These Unique Thermogenic Plants Grow in the Hudson Valley

Swamp Cabbage is one of the first ephemeral woodland flowers each year.  Thermogenisis protects it against frost damage and allows it to germinate and sprout earlier than it otherwise could. While flowering, it maintains a temperature of 73°F, day and night, for more than a week. After the female flowers bloom, the male flowers release pollen.

Eastern Swamp Cabbage is a common, yet uncommon flower. Its mottled purple and green "flower bud" is the first thing to poke out of the mud in the spring. The "flower" has a hood-like spathe, with a narrow opening on one side. The spathe protects a yellow and purple spadix, which contains the (actual) numerous small geometric flowers. After pollination occurs, large green leaves unfurl in a spiral pattern.

Spathe and Spadix of Eastern Swamp Cabbage
Spathe and Spadix of Eastern Swamp Cabbage

Vacation. Realization. Appreciation.

There is a "garden" of these exquisitely unusual wildflowers--these sultry snow melters of the vernal equinox growing near the babbling brook at Pleasant Valley Maple Lodging. They are a welcome harbinger of spring. But the early greenery is also nurturing.

Sitting Area Near Babbling Brook at Pleasant Valley Maple Lodging
Sitting Area Near Babbling Brook at Pleasant Valley Maple Lodging

I find my time near them therapeutic. There is some support for my sentiment. Exposure to nature has been linked to greater wellbeing, improved attention, and lower stress.

Maybe Swamp Cabbage can help chase away winter blues, or de-stress you. The plant can “magically” chase away the frozen snow with its own internal "furnace". And, as a "common weed" that many people don't even notice, learning something new about it makes it that much more intriguing. 


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