Common Name: Skunk Cabbage
Description: This perennial monocot is one of the first flowers to bloom in late winter. This plant even produces heat which melts the surrounding snow or ice in order to produce a flower. The plants have a foul odor when crushed, giving them their name. They have a massive root system anchoring the plant deep in the ground.
Leaves: Large (30-60 cm long) ovate to cordate leaves are ribbed and broad at the base; produced after flowering
Flowers: Purplish-brown and green flowers bloom from February to April. Produces large amounts of pollen that are clustered into a spike and enclosed in a purple and yellow spotted sheath-like hood, close to the ground. Actual flowers are tiny (located on the ball-like spathe inside the hooded spadix); whole flowering structure is 7-12 cm high.
Seeds: After the flowers have been pollinated, a fruit head forms, containing many berry-like fruits. Each of these berry-like fruits contain one seed.
Stem: A thick roundish stem, called a rootstock or rhizome
Branching Pattern: Basal
Height: 30-60 cm
Conditions/Habitat/Kind of Forest: Beech forests of Wisconsin, lowland forests, and pine barrens; Swamps, bogs, seepage areas, and very moist depressions in woods
Range: Temperate Asia as well as Eastern, Northeastern, North- Central, and Southeastern portions of the U.S.
Conservation Status-US/ World Wide: This plant is endangered
Uses (Human): Has been documented as a folklore medicine; a vertebrate poison due to the calcium oxalate in the leaves
Connecticut Wildflowers. November 13, 2005. Connecticut Botanical Society. Accessed: November 29, 2005.
Redington, Charles B. Plants in Wetlands. Iowa: Kendall/Hunt Publishing Company, 1994.
Skunk Cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus). 2004. The Nature Institute. Accessed: November 29, 2005. <http://natureinstitute.org/pub/ic/ic4/skunkcabbage.htm>
2005. North Carolina State University. Accessed:
November 29, 2005. <http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/consumer/index.html>
This page was created by: C. Westring,
Last updated 12/21/05