WATAUGA COUNTY, N.C. (Charlotte Observer) - Mild winter temperatures along the Blue Ridge Parkway are giving rise to a fierce-looking pod that experts say smells like death and has an otherworldly ability to create enough heat to melt snow around it.
And yes, it can be fatal if eaten, plant experts say.
Blue Ridge Parkway officials posted a photo of the festering bloom on Saturday, noting it has “a face only a mother could love.”
It’s called a skunk cabbage, National Park Service officials said.
“Equipped with a chemical process that heats this early bloomer up to over 55 degrees Fahrenheit, these stinky members of the Arum Family can even melt snow in order to bloom,” the park posted. “Talk about determination!”
Skunk cabbage is “a warm - blooded plant” that can raise the temperature around it by as much as 20 degrees, according to a Pennsylvania State University report. In doing so, it “will use as much oxygen as a comparably sized mammal,” the report says.
As for the plant’s appearance, skunk cabbage “looks like something out of a science-fiction movie” and it has a fierce defense mechanism, according to Gardening Know How.
“Skunk cabbage gets its name from the fact that, when the leaves are crushed or bruised, it gives off a smell of skunk or rotting meat,” Gardeningknowhow.com says.
“In small doses, or two small bites, the skunk cabbage plant can cause burning and swelling of the mouth and a choking sensation. Eating larger portions of these leaves can, in extreme cases, be fatal,” the gardening site says.
Native Americans believed the plant was “magic,” with healing abilities and could “increase fertility by passing it over a woman’s genitals,” reports the New England Folklore blogspot.com.
“Do not try any of these cures,” the blogspot warns.