Nature Art: Skunk Cabbage Season
The cherry blossoms are magnificent here in Washington, D.C., but you can see a photo of them anywhere. What doesn't get much press is the lowly skunk cabbage. Its plate-like, vivid green leaves make a damp woodland look lush at this time of year, as shown below.
By its looks, you'd think skunk cabbage would be tasty, but it isn't--not even to winter-hungry deer. Deer filled the forest I was in yesterday, at the top of the Potomac River watershed, and they've grazed most of the new green growth from the understory plants. But deer won't touch skunk cabbage. And it isn't that deer can read; they won't eat the yellow flowers of the spicebush, either.
Spicebush, or Lindera benzoin, is a native shrub that brings early spring to the woods of the East and loves the same damp woodland as the skunk cabbage. Its tiny yellow flowers twinkle in these over-grazed, still leafless wood,s and its leaves smell of cinnamon and ginger when crushed.
Spicebush is notoriously hard to transplant because it must have damp feet most of the year. It Is the host to the Spicebush Swallowtail Butterfly, a dramatic blue and black winged creature, but if you'd like to host swallowtails in your garden, take the easy road and plant fennel instead.
Skunk cabbage has an edible relative, Bright Lights Kale. You can plant this too, in cool weather, and enjoy the ornamental ribs and mild cabbage taste. See my sketch of it below.
-- Sue Fierston paints and teaches just outside of Washington, D.C. in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. As a painter, she works in acrylics and watercolor and is in the middle of a series called "100 Flowers." As a teaching artist, she works with teachers to bring art into their classrooms in grades 4-8. Her posts focus on her nature-themed art collaborations. For a look at her paintings or more about her teaching, check out her website at suzannefierston.com.