The Power of Cellular Respiration

09 Apr

skunk cabbage flowerLast weekend, when the ground was still covered with about 2 feet of snow, we went looking for flowers. We found them in the wetlands by Conte Community School. Symplocarpus foetidus, common name around here: Skunk Cabbage. The interesting thing about this stinky plant, and yes it smells like boiled cabbage probably to attract early spring insects, is that it can generate its own heat and melt the snow around it. We found a hole in the snow about 2.5 inches across, down below in the muck, was a flowering skunk cabbage. skunk cabbage flowers in snowNot the prettiest of flowers, but fascinating. These plants make heat through cellular respiration. Remember that from high school biology? Remember it never made any sense? Well what this plant does is take CO2 from the air and make it into sugar to use for energy, this process of making energy gives off heat. Its called thermogenesis. Pretty cool eh? Also in the picture is a small clump of crouch grass, or crab grass. This grass uses CAM photosynthesis or Crassulacean-Acid metabolism. In this process the CO2 is taken up only at night then stored in vacuoles for energy during the day. Tough plants the both of them.

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Posted by on April 9, 2015 in backyard science, Science, science in the parks


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