Thanks to Peter, Petra, Don and all who replied to my question on growing
Most observations pretty much match mine, here in Eastern Canada, where
Symplocarpus foetidus grows natively. The driest I have personally seen
skunk cabbage growing and thriving was, perhaps, three feet above the
summer water level of a riparian intervale on the Saint John River in New
Brunswick, Canada and this subject to inundation by spring freshets each
year. S. foetidus is not nearly as abundant as it used to be in this area,
with the draining of wetlands, swamps and fens, but, with some effort, it
still may be observed in the wild, though I have not had the opportunity to
see it for years.
As a child I was struck by this plant that would burn its way through solid
ice in late winter and early spring to form its "faerie hooseys", which
were warm to the touch and usually inhabited by a bug or beetle or so and,
very occasionally, a tiny green peeper when they were not to be found
elsewhere. These little melt circles, sometimes numbering in the hundreds
alongside a slough or pond, certainly did seem to be magical places in the
eyes of myself and my young friends. But then, we had help ...
The Old Folks had it that these tenants "slept" the winter at the roots of
the skunk cabbage and "woke up" when the plant thawed the ground around it
and bloomed. Of course, the custodian faeries stoked little fires to keep
the plant warm and husbanded the accompanying creatures on their wee farms.
These particular faeries, in these special places, made the magic of "quiet
hearing", fashioned and spun from the fabric of breezes caught in the doors
of their houses - a lesson for children - If you stood very still, you
could hear all the small, wild noises made by every living thing separately
and distinctively from each other. Then you would know their names, which
was very important: the wind carried names, yours as well, near and far. We
had to be careful where we walked and try not to damage any of the plants
or the faeries could bring us bad luck. And, we would not want the wind to
speak ill of us.
This made certain sense to me then and I may still believe some of it
today. I wonder: Are there any scientific observations on microclimates
created by Symplocarpus that compare with the Old Folks' lore? Aside from
the increasingly homeless faeries, of course.
Zone 5b Eastern Maritime Canada
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