Not a fig leaf in sight at the Crested Butte, CO 4th of July Parade
July 4, 2014 4:21 AM   Subscribe

For 30 years, scientists at the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory (aka RMBL - pronounced 'rumble') have chosen an odd way to get the word out about their work -- covering themselves in skunk cabbage and marching through the streets during Crested Butte's Fourth of July parade. Direct link to video story.
posted by gudrun (11 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

Cabbage is a good choice for science since it is most likely the origin of all human life.

Fun post, gudrun. Sadly, with today's anti-science bias, we may need a lot more cabbage.
posted by madamjujujive at 4:36 AM on July 4 [1 favorite]

Great story.

Clearly this is a different type of skunk cabbage than what grows hereabouts... you could not pay me to festoon myself in its extremely funky leaves.
posted by kinnakeet at 4:45 AM on July 4

Clearly this is a different type of skunk cabbage than what grows hereabouts... you could not pay me to festoon myself in its extremely funky leaves.

No kidding. They do get hosed down by the firefighters, according to the video, but I wonder what it takes to really remove the smell.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:39 AM on July 4

According to the article, the "skunk cabbage" in question is Veratrum californicum, also known as the California corn lily. Wikipedia says nothing about it being known as skunk cabbage, or about any odoriferous qualities at all. What most people in the United States call skunk cabbage is either Symplocarpus foetidus (eastern skunk cabbage) or Lysichiton americanus (western skunk cabbage).
posted by Faint of Butt at 5:46 AM on July 4 [2 favorites]

I always called (what I now know is) Veratrum Califonicum skunk cabbage growing up. Never heard of it as the California corn lily. It's got an odor but isn't overwhelming.

Cool post.
posted by postcommunism at 7:50 AM on July 4 [1 favorite]

"tension gets high, i usually do not involve myself" 1:40-1:55. Really, you have to love this guy, or at least I do.
posted by rmhsinc at 8:50 AM on July 4

I'll be damned! My uncle worked at RMBL in the 80s and I think I even still have one of the t-shirts he gave us, with a columbine on it.
posted by clavicle at 9:12 AM on July 4

I've never heard false hellebore referred to as skunk cabbage before, but the more usual varieties, eastern skunk cabbage and western skunk cabbage are both pretty remarkable plants.

Eastern skunk cabbage has a very unusual ability for a plant; it's thermogenic, meaning it can generate enough heat to melt the snow and frozen ground around it, giving it a head start in the spring.

Western skunk cabbage grows at an incredible rate in the temperate rainforests of the Pacific northwest. From a small, vividly yellow shoot that comes up in March or April, it will have developed by this time of year into a large plant with huge green leaves that can easily be 3-4 feet in length. You wouldn't need many western skunk cabbage leaves to cover yourself (though they're not actually well suited for that.)
posted by Nerd of the North at 10:27 AM on July 4 [2 favorites]

I feel bad for mr. anonymous other founder of the tradition. They can remember conversations with him but no one can remember his name?
posted by tavella at 10:42 AM on July 4

Fuck I accidentally read the comments at the WSJ page and now I'm depressed
posted by en forme de poire at 11:05 PM on July 4

Yeah, I meant to say NOT to read the comments at the WSJ page; depressing anti-scientist stuff.
posted by gudrun at 8:02 AM on July 5 [1 favorite]

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