Skunk Cabbage

Lysichiton americanum

APPEARANCE

Skunk cabbage has a bright yellow lantern-shaped flower that grows 25 centimetres tall from the base of its large green leaves. It has a strong “skunk” smell that attracts pollinating insects.

RANGE & HABITAT

It grows in swampy and moist areas in North America from Alaska to California. In B.C., this plant is found in the Coast and Mountains and Georgia Lowlands ecoprovinces.

LIFE CYCLE

Skunk cabbage is a perennial plant and it is one of the earliest flowers to bloom. In March or April a yellow flower and spike can be seen poking out of the wet areas where it is found. Bees pollinate the flowers in late spring, and the green leaves are usually not seen until a week after the flowers appear.

ANIMAL USES

Black bears eat the plant in spring as a laxative.

TRADITIONAL FIRST NATIONS USES

The roots were steamed and eaten and used for medicine. The leaves were used for packaging and serving food.

MODERN USES

Few people eat skunk cabbage leaves because they have stinging crystals in them that burn the mouth and throat.

STATUS

COSEWIC: Not at Risk
CDC: Yellow

MORE INFORMATION

www.linnet.geog.ubc.ca

Photo: lilspikey