Saturday, April 3, 2010


It's summer in Montreal, Quebec. What happened to Spring? It'll be back, along with winter no doubt, before the official start of summer. We live in a temperamental climate..

It was 25 degrees Celsius (77 Fahrenheit) yesterday when it should have been more like 8C!

I feel bad though because I know a lot of people get fooled every year and start planting their flowers and tomatoes, and then in freezes again. In fact I'm so sure it's going to snow again that I made a bet with my boyfriend; whoever loses has to sit through a Twilight movie, muahahaha!

But seriously,  I actually got a sunburn! It's on the back of my neck from bending over with my camera, taking full advantage of the weather at the Montreal Botanical Gardens. Many spring blooming plants have a very short flowering period so you have to get 'em while it's good!

The first spring bloom I went looking for is....
the skunk cabbage!
Symplocarpus foetidus Eastern skunk cabbage

What? Not what you were expecting? Well it had at least one human visitor that was ridiculously excited to see it:)

The (Eastern) skunk cabbage is a peculiar member of the Aroid family which includes many well-known houseplants like Spathiphyllums (peace lily), Anthuriums and Philodendrons. Do you see the family resemblance? Kinda? He hasn't grown out leaves yet, just the flower with its leaf shaped hoodie hiding the 'spadix' made of tiny flat flower - a common theme in Aroid 'blossoms'.

What makes this guy special is his ability to produce enough heat to melt the surrounding snow and thus be one of the first flowers to appear at the end of winter. The thing is the heat isn't produced to melt the snow but as a way increase the power of the fragrance it produces. And by fragrance I mean serious stank: this guy is pollinated by flies so the scent is one of rotting corpse. And that dark purpleish red color? Yep, that's supposed to look like dead meat.

As happens often in nature, a talent evolved for one purpose turns out to be useful for another and so this plant was able to colonize cooler climates. It's actually not that rare for flowers (and some fungi) to opt for flies as pollinators: it's pretty economical for the plants since it doesn't have to produce nectar, it just has trick the fly into thinking it's a good food source for its young. Of course it's just faux meat so their babies hatch and starve to death!

So the skunk cabbage is kinda like the member of the Aroid family that no one wants so sit next to at the dinner table, he smells funny and tortures small animals...

Anyways, here's a little eye bleach for those repulsed by the meat flower image: stereotypical spring blooms!

A lot of these are from the MBG's incredible rock garden. With the weather being so warm this is one of the best places to see early blooming plants. These guys are used to a summer which is really kinda cool so as soon as it's barely above freezing they all exploded in a frenzy of fornication!

These guys might be tiny but they won't be left out of the party - the whole plant is about 2 inches wide.

Even the mosses are getting some action!

The local fauna was also up and about:

3 robins meet for breakfast- or perhaps a showdown

One of three pairs of male/female ducks. All with the male chasing the female, and the female making a bee-line for the picnikers on the shore.

A terribly alarmed and confused looking chipmunk:
Spring? Better get busy!


  1. Beautiful pics! That chipmunk is too cute!

  2. Thanks! He stood motionless like that for about 30 secs - I think he was startled by something - he looked like he was stuffed! lol:)