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Between late February and May, in woodlands and wetlands throughout eastern Canada and the northeast United States, you’ll find a low growing, foul-smelling plant called skunk cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus). The skunk cabbage is one of the first plants to emerge in the spring when the winter snow is yet to melt. As the plant pokes its head out of the snow and starts flowering, it forms a small pool of water around it, created by snow melt. The heat needed to melt the snow is derived not from the sun but generated by the plant itself. Skunk cabbage is one of the few species in the Plant Kingdom, belonging to ancient lineages of flowering plants, that has the rare ability to generate heat — a phenomenon known as thermogenesis.

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The flower of a skunk cabbage melts snow around it by its heat. Photo credit

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