Spring is here! And while the weather hasn't yet satiated our desire and need for Vitamin D, there are sure signs that spring is in bloom. Today special guest Kim Brown takes on a true harbinger of spring: skunk cabbage.

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I look forward to the first skunk cabbage (Lysichiton americanus), or swamp lantern, each spring. The beautiful bright yellow “flower,” or bract, practically glows! The leaves are small during the flowering stage, but by mid-summer can be 3 feet long (or longer, if you’re on the North Fork Sauk trail!).

You’ll know when you’re near them by a skunk-like, heady, earthy odor (“fragrance” is too delicate a word). Bugs and beetles are attracted by the odor, and hoochi-mama! they breed inside of swamp lanterns! In the process of breeding, insects wallow around like pigs in mud and help to pollinate the plant! Examine a flower closely, and you’ll see ants and small beetles crawling around on the sticky, yellow bract and the cone-like flower it surrounds.

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