Skunk Cabbage

Lysichiton americanum 

Out of the muck, large, erect leaves-
Grow from underground stems.
Early spring flowers
bloom on upright, cylindrical spadix;
Enclosed in  taxi-cab-yellow sheathing bract spathe.
Pungent odor
attracts pollinator  flies and beetles.
Form massive understory
in muddy, swamp-like places.
Be careful…
Systemic calcium oxalate crystals 
temporarily paralyze salivary glands.
Tongue and throat may swell-
…No fun…
Breathing constricted
Don’t eat, don’t eat, don’t eat!

Click image below to read Legend of the Skunk Cabbage:



  1. I like the name Swamp Lantern for these too. My husband and I just undertood to move a few of the eastern variety from a roadside location into our swamp. Hope they take hold!

  2. Jane, I find your species as fascinating as you do ours! That skunk cabbage looks as if it belongs in a floral arrangement, and not in the “muck” 🙂

    1. Ken, That would seem like a good idea. Until… the leaf or flower is disturbed. Then the reason why it is called “Skunk” cabbage becomes vividly clear. The plant really does give off a skunky smell! Although, I just read that the West Coast variety of skunk cabbage is far less nasty smelling than the East Coast variety 🙂

    1. Me too! The drive to the coast is especially wonderful along the river and creek banks where huge patches are blooming.

      I have high hopes that our wetland, mucky edges will be home to more and more Skunk Cabbage now that the invasive Himalayan Blackberries are (almost) conquered! There are definitely more coming up this year than last when the berries were berserk… maybe someday we will look like the creek beds you are enjoying.

        1. Maybe I spoke very optimistically when using the work “conquered” because you are right… there is a thin line between feeling like those crazy vines are under control and a chain saw! Actually- my husband did threaten to bring the chainsaw out last spring, but I was determined to get the job done by non-gas powered means. It took longer digging and cutting by hand, but the sounds of the wetland were well worth it! There are some vines peeking out of the litterfall, but the pruners are sharpened and ready to snip…

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