By Common Name‎ > ‎Wildflowers N-Z‎ > ‎

Skunk Cabbage

Skunk Cabbage or Swamp Lanterns, Lysichtum americanum

Spring Skunk Cabbage in bloom, photographer Martha Rasmussen

This strange tropical looking plant shoots out of the swamps and areas of seepage in early March. The plants have been measures up to 30 inches across. They get their name, Skunk Cabbage due to the fact that the "fragrance" given off, a pungent odor mimicking carrion attracts flies and beetles for pollination.  This bright yellow flower, thus the other common name, Swamp Lantern, is one of the few native species in the Arum family. 



 
Pollinated Skunk Cabbage spadix going to seed, photographer Ken Rasmussen Sr., D.C.

Arums, a genus of flowering plants can be found worldwide including the garden common Calla Lily.  Skunk Cabbage spreads by Rhizomes sending up giant thick bright green leaves encircling a stalk supporting a protective yellow spathe.  Withing the Spathe is the spadix, the reproductive "fragrant" portion of the plant in need of pollination.


Skunk Cabbage growing in forest wetlands, photographer Shari Brewer

These bright yellow flowers, a heralder of springtime can be found all around the Darrington area.  The plants contain calcium oxalate which causes a prickling sensation and swelling of the tongue and throat.  Consumption in large amounts can even cause death.  Strangely enough this is a food sought by bears after a long hibernation both providing a food source and a cathartic to get their digestive systems re-regulated.