Skunk Cabbages Are So Hot

Jill Harness

Can a plant be warm blooded? Well, being as how they have no blood, the obvious answer is no. But the skunk cabbage comes as close as it can by producing enough heat to stay 65-95 degrees above the ambient temperature of the freezing winters of its New England home.

To produce heat, it metabolizes oxygen—the same amount of oxygen used by an animal its size. As a result, it's able to melt the snow around it and attract the handful of pollinating insects that are active in this weather—cold-tolerant flies and bees. Unsurprisingly, these insects aren't lured in by the sweet smell of honeysuckle, but by the deathly smell of rotting meat. The skunk cabbage has a rancid smell to lure in these insects and repel hungry deer, hence the reason for its not so charming moniker.

There is plenty more fascinating information on this fascinatingly disgusting plant over at The Quantum Biologist.