Chiberian Spring

Chiberian Spring
skunk cabbage--image by Sakaori for Wkimedia Commons

Chiberian spring is not pretty.  The gusting winds of a few days ago have left  dry leaves, sticks and seeds on top of melted snow.

Even as we maneuver around potholes and melted/refrozen sidewalks, the receding filthy snowpack reveals the first glimpse of muddy ground, and grass that is not quite green. What can we learn from melting snow and drab grass?

The  grass is almost green. The snow has a fibrous, mineral beauty, the melted surface delicate as spun glass. Life is beautiful. Spring will come.

It is the light that deceives us into thinking of  tulips and daffodils, but we are not the only forward thinkers. Other winter creatures  are going about their lives with increased activity. Oh, the cacaphony of sparrows! Squirrels are racing each other up and down the trees.

The Polar Vortex may return to Chiberia this week, along with subzero wind chill, but the momentum is toward longer days, milder temperatures. Already, there are green buds on the magnolia across the alley, red buds swelling on the pussy willows I pass on the way to Walgreens.

Warmer days are coming. The skunk cabbage cannot wait. It makes its own heat.  In fact,  it can melt the snow around it!

Thermogenesis, it's called. During the early days of March, the skunk cabbage  can produce enough heat to stay between 60 and 95 degrees F above the surrounding temperature. It  uses as much oxygen as an animal of its size, and produces more heat energy than a hummingbird in flight.

Symplocarpus foetidus, skunk cabbage, is a spring woodland plant native to northern Illinois. It inhabits wet woods, stream banks and wetlands, shaded areas with mucky soil.  The skunk cabbage is  a member of the Arum family,  a relative of  Jack-in-the-pulpit, another spring woodland wildflower.

As the name implies, the skunk cabbage stinks. That's what  the very early pollinators like flies are attracted  to--that  organic matter smell. It's the smell of  life.

The first days of  spring are not pretty. But the sight of the skunk cabbage emerging is beautiful!


Tired of winter?  Here's some light therapy.

Can't wait for spring color?  Don't miss the Orchid Show at the Botanical Gardens. Thanks to Christine at The New Abides for  letting me share her post and photos with you.


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  • I guess we can now say (with less than a week to go) that you saying that the Farmer's Almanac prediction would hold did.

    The real question is the next 30 day forecast (which the Almanac indicates is cold until March 24), and while the skunk cabbage might peak out, if we see any grass it is going to be mud before it is green.

    What I'm hoping for is that this is not like somewhere else I was, where there was a heavy snowfall about May 10, collapsing the Oktoberfest (and other street festivals) tent.

  • In reply to jack:

    Hello, Jack! What a pleasure to share this winter with you. And, it's not over yet--far from it!

    As the Almanac says, "March is many weathers" and maybe April will fool us, again. I thought it would be interesting to write about a plant that makes its own spring.

    Thanks as always for reading, and your insightful comments

  • Yes, BRRR, Spring is coming, Arum pum pum pum!

  • In reply to Aquinas wired:

    Now, that's Chiberian spirit. Thanks for stopping by, AW!

  • It does stink but spring will not. I bet it will be glorious.

  • In reply to Kathy Mathews:

    Thanks, Kathy. It will be a glorious Spring!

  • The only thing I can say today about Chiberian Spring is that the 4 inches of snow or so Saturday night covered up the black snow piles, so at least things are white.

  • In reply to jack:

    And that snow coming down during the hockey game! Falling on those black Hawks jerseys...

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