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No. 30: Nov-Dec 1983

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Hot Plants

You've heard of hot potatoes, but they aren't naturally hot. However, in the early spring skunk cabbages are and so are some philodendrons during their flowering periods. In fact, some philo-dendrons burn fat to generate their heat, just like animals. Metabolism based on fats allows some philodendrons to reach temperatures of 124F. In terms of their rates of metabolism, they rival those of the humming birds. Further-more, philodendrons can regulate their chemical fires, whereas skunk cabbages, which burn only starch, consume all their stored energy like a rocket in one snow-melting crescendo.

Why do plants generate heat? Apparently to attract pollinating insects. The hot skunk cabbage poking through the snow is the only food in sight for early spring insects, while the philodendrons may attract pollinating insects who like to bask or mate in warm places.

(Blakeslee, Sandra; New York Times, August 9, 1983, p. C4. Cr. P. Gunkel) Comment. Are plants really "lower" forms of life?

From Science Frontiers #30, NOV-DEC 1983. 1983-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987