Skunk Cabbage

Skunk Cabbage

Lysichiton americanum

It’ Latin name is Lysichiton americanum. It’s also known as Swamp Lantern.

It is definitely a wetland indicator. It has a definite skunky smell when it first emerges in the spring. The leaves can be lance shaped to elliptical and get up to four feet tall by two feet wide. The leaves were used by the natives and early settlers as a substitute for today’s waxed paper.

The flowers are greenish-yellow on a spike. The spike sits on a thick fleshy stalk which is hooded by a bright yellow bract. The flowers and the stalk emerge first in the spring. The leaves follow, from a large basal rosette, and soon overtake the central stalk. It’s a very striking plant, but best left in the wetlands.

The root can be eaten if steamed or baked. I hope I am never hungry enough to try it out. The flowers can be a problem to pets. As the flowers age, they form barbs that can lodge in pets noses.

Can Spring be far behind when the Skunk Cabbage is in bloom. It’s so bright, it makes you think the sun is out even on a cloudy day. There is so much water around this year, this has even cropped up in the ditch lines.