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Café Scientifique: Maryland’s First Flower of the Year — January’s Wetland Curiosity
January 29 at 1:00 pm - 2:30 pm
Eastern Skunk Cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus), is alleged to be over 72 million years old, changing little over that time. It is an extraordinary plant, possessing peculiarities found in few others. In Maryland, it blooms in January, sometimes even earlier. This is but one of its fascinating characteristics.
Café Scientifique presents a two-event series, a talk on Zoom on January 27 followed by a field trip on January 29.
The speaker is Siobhan Percey from Jug Bay Wetland Sanctuary, who says that from the time she unearthed a rabbit skull from her “sandbox” when she was eight years old, or maybe even before, she has been looking under logs, chasing butterflies, identifying plants, collecting rocks and shells and bones, slogging through swamps, caring for injured wildlife, and otherwise immersing herself in the natural world.
In her own words:
I met my now-husband and was introduced to hiking and camping. We went to the Adirondacks, Everglades, Assateague, and more. I graduated from Cornell Veterinary College, and my love affair with nature and growing sense of environmental responsibility continued. I had two daughters and raised them to be conscientious caretakers of the earth. We continue to travel as a family to areas of natural beauty and have witnessed an arribada of thousands of Olive Ridley sea turtles, visited the overwintering site of Monarch Butterflies, hiked Nepal’s Annapurna area… and the list goes on – our family Christmas tradition.
I worked in private veterinary practice for many years, and then as a veterinary consultant for the AACPS Diamondback Terrapin Program. I earned Certifications in Ecological Restoration, and Environmental Monitoring and Assessment. Accordingly, I took a break from the veterinary world to work at Maryland DNR as a naturalist, writer, and research assistant studying rare, threatened, and endangered wetland butterflies. I have since returned to the veterinary world, but am at my happiest when exploring and discovering the intricacies of our ecosystem. I am one for the journey, not the destination.
I have been a citizen scientist at Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary since 2011, participating in the turtle telemetry and vernal pool projects, amongst others. It was there that I did a research project on Eastern Skunk Cabbage, & became known informally as the Skunk Cabbage expert, not that there was much competition! I lead the annual Skunk Cabbage Swamp Stomp there each January.
To join the Zoom Meeting: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/87848406572?pwd=VVVFOVNwNFdtN1VDVDA3Sk5yc0VLdz09
Passcode: 433794 Meeting ID: 878 4840 6572
One tap mobile +13017158592,,87848406572#,,,,*433794# (Wash DC)
Field trip, Saturday, January 29, 1-2:30pm. Rain date: Sunday January 30, 1-2:30pm.
To attend the field trip, email email@example.com by January 27.
Enjoy this poem, Skunk Cabbage, by Mary Oliver
And now as the iron rinds over
the ponds start dissolving,
you come, dreaming of ferns and flowers
and new leaves unfolding,
upon the brash
turnip-hearted skunk cabbage
slinging its bunches leaves up
through the chilling mud.
You kneel beside it. The smell
is lurid and flows out in the most
unabashed way, attracting
into itself a continual spattering
of protein. Appalling its rough
green caves, and the thought
of the thick root nested below, stubborn
and powerful as instinct!
But these are the woods you love,
where the secret name
of every death is life again – a miracle
wrought surely not of mere turning
but of dense and scalding reenactment. Not
tenderness, not longing, but daring and brawn
pull down the frozen waterfall, the past.
Ferns, leaves, flowers, the last subtle
refinements, elegant and easeful, wait
to rise and flourish.
…What blazes the trail is not necessarily pretty.