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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