Thursday, May 15, 2008

Seek ye Love, ye fairy-sprites?

Most of the vegetation in Burns Bog is small-leaved; evergreens with needles, mosses, Labrador tea, bog blueberries, and so on. But one plant breaks the rule; the skunk cabbage. The acid soil and deep shade of the bog is very much to their liking, and where the surface of the soil is wet, they settle in and fill the space with two-foot leaves.

A small patch.

Skunk cabbage flowering. We smell them before we see them; like skunks, but not so acrid. The bugs find them by the smell, too.

Here's a beetle.* An attractive little guy, wearing a brown jacket with black collar and patches.

Party time! A ripe, juicy flower spike, with plenty of food for all. The flowers themselves are tiny, either male or female, greenish-yellow, and without petals; that big yellow thing is a wrapper, or spathe. When the flowers are mature, the inviting (to insects) aroma is strongest. The flower spike in the background is not ready yet, and no bugs visit it.

And once the beetles have eaten and drunk their fill, what next? You guessed it! In this section alone, I count at least six mating couples.

Love among the skunk cabbages.

(Apologies to Lewis Carroll.)
*It's a Rove Beetle,
Staphylinidae: Omaliinae, according to Boris Buche at BugGuide. The smaller ones on the spike are a different species, not ID'd yet.


  1. Very nice images of skunk cabbages. I especially like the second image with the flower stalks. I wonder if the scent of the plant entices the insects to mate?

  2. That may very well be part of the attraction of the flowers; aphrodisiacs.

    I wonder if anybody has tested this?


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