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Symplocarpus foetidus

Symplocarpus foetidus (L.) Salisb. ex Nutt.

Spathyema foetida (L.) Raf.

Eastern Skunk Cabbage, Clumpfoot Cabbage, Foetid Pothos, Meadow Cabbage, Polecat Weed, Skunk Cabbage, Swamp Cabbage

KingdomPlantaePlants, but not fungi, lichens, or algae
SubkingdomTracheobiontaVascular plants—plants with a “circulatory system” for delivering water and nutrients
DivisionMagnoliophytaFlowering plants, also known as angiosperms
ClassLiliopsidaMonocots (plants with a single seed leaf); includes the lily family
SubclassAlismatidaeAquatic and marshy plants
OrderAlismatalesHerbaceous flowering plants found in marshy habitats
FamilyAraceaeArum family, with plants whose flower is enclosed in a spathe
GenusSymplocarpus
Speciesfoetidus

About plant names...

Skunk cabbage is native to eastern North America, northeastern Asia, eastern Siberia, northeastern China, Korea, and Japan. It is named for the disagreeable odor that results when the leaves are torn, an odor it uses to attract its pollinators.

Identification: Found in swamps and wetlands, skunk cabbage can reach 3' (91 cm) high and 8' (2.4 m) across at its peak. Early plants have hood-like leaves 4-6" (10-15 cm) high; some leaves are maroon, sometimes mottled with yellow. This hood is a “spathe,” a modified leaf that protects the flowerhead. The flowers remain enclosed in the spathe, so you have to peek inside to see them. Later in the spring, large, oval leaves, up to 3-4' (91-121 cm) long, grow up from a single point. The leaves of these plants don’t decay in the usual sense, they literally dissolve, disappearing by August.

Edibility: Poisonous Skull & Crossbones You probably weren’t seriously considering eating skunk cabbage, but if you were, don’t—it contains calcium oxalate, which causes a strong inflammatory reaction in people. Bears tolerate it, but they put up with bee stings too. From Spring Wildflowers of the Northeast: A Natural History:

In skunk cabbage [calcium oxalate crystals] take two forms: raphides, which occur in bundles of parallel, needlelike crystals, and druses, which are conglomerates of several crystals fused around a nucleus and shaped like an irregular, spiky ball. If skunk cabbage is eaten, the calcium oxalate causes a severe burning sensation in the mouth, throat, and esophagus and can result in an inability to speak or even in swelling of the throat.

Online References:

Symplocarpus foetidus at the Nature Institute

Symplocarpus foetidus at the University of Wisconsin's Robert W. Freckmann Herbarium

Symplocarpus foetidus on Wikipedia

Symplocarpus foetidus at Illinois Wildflowers

Symplocarpus foetidus on Plants for a Future, a resource and information centre for edible and otherwise useful plants

Symplocarpus foetidus at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

Symplocarpus foetidus at Minnesota Wildflowers

References:

Gracie, Carol, Spring Wildflowers of the Northeast: A Natural History, Princeton University Press, 2012, p. 152-161

Symplocarpus foetidus (Eastern Skunk Cabbage, Clumpfoot Cabbage, Foetid Pothos, Meadow Cabbage, Polecat Weed, Skunk Cabbage, Swamp Cabbage)

4/5/2015 · Tenant’s Harbor, ME
≈ 4 × 2½" (10 × 7 cm)

Symplocarpus foetidus (Eastern Skunk Cabbage, Clumpfoot Cabbage, Foetid Pothos, Meadow Cabbage, Polecat Weed, Skunk Cabbage, Swamp Cabbage)

4/15/1979 · Memphis, TN · By Tim Chandler

Symplocarpus foetidus (Eastern Skunk Cabbage, Clumpfoot Cabbage, Foetid Pothos, Meadow Cabbage, Polecat Weed, Skunk Cabbage, Swamp Cabbage)

4/6/2012 · North Central Railroad Trail, Sparks, MD
≈ 3½ × 2½' (1.2 × 0.8 m)

Symplocarpus foetidus (Eastern Skunk Cabbage, Clumpfoot Cabbage, Foetid Pothos, Meadow Cabbage, Polecat Weed, Skunk Cabbage, Swamp Cabbage)

4/27/2010 · Nashua River Rail Trail, Pepperell, MA

Symplocarpus foetidus (Eastern Skunk Cabbage, Clumpfoot Cabbage, Foetid Pothos, Meadow Cabbage, Polecat Weed, Skunk Cabbage, Swamp Cabbage)

4/30/2013 · Acton Arboretum, Acton, MA
≈ 7 × 11" (17 × 26 cm)

Symplocarpus foetidus description by Thomas H. Kent, last updated 21 Apr 2015.

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Symplocarpus foetidus (Eastern Skunk Cabbage, Clumpfoot Cabbage, Foetid Pothos, Meadow Cabbage, Polecat Weed, Skunk Cabbage, Swamp Cabbage)

4/5/2015 · Tenant’s Harbor, ME
≈ 11 × 7" (27 × 18 cm)

Symplocarpus foetidus (Eastern Skunk Cabbage, Clumpfoot Cabbage, Foetid Pothos, Meadow Cabbage, Polecat Weed, Skunk Cabbage, Swamp Cabbage)

6/15/1979 · VA · By Tim Chandler

Symplocarpus foetidus (Eastern Skunk Cabbage, Clumpfoot Cabbage, Foetid Pothos, Meadow Cabbage, Polecat Weed, Skunk Cabbage, Swamp Cabbage)

3/26/2012 · Groton Place and Sabine Woods, Groton, MA
≈ 9 × 7" (22 × 17 cm)

Symplocarpus foetidus (Eastern Skunk Cabbage, Clumpfoot Cabbage, Foetid Pothos, Meadow Cabbage, Polecat Weed, Skunk Cabbage, Swamp Cabbage)

4/30/2013 · Acton Arboretum, Acton, MA
≈ 17 × 15" (42 × 38 cm)

Symplocarpus foetidus (Eastern Skunk Cabbage, Clumpfoot Cabbage, Foetid Pothos, Meadow Cabbage, Polecat Weed, Skunk Cabbage, Swamp Cabbage)

Melting its way through the early spring snow. · 4/5/2015 · Tenant’s Harbor, ME
≈ 14 × 10" (35 × 25 cm)

Symplocarpus foetidus (Eastern Skunk Cabbage, Clumpfoot Cabbage, Foetid Pothos, Meadow Cabbage, Polecat Weed, Skunk Cabbage, Swamp Cabbage)

4/29/2010 · Bruce Freeman Rail Trail, Chelmsford, MA

Symplocarpus foetidus (Eastern Skunk Cabbage, Clumpfoot Cabbage, Foetid Pothos, Meadow Cabbage, Polecat Weed, Skunk Cabbage, Swamp Cabbage)

4/5/2015 · Tenant’s Harbor, ME
≈ 6 × 4" (15 × 10 cm)

Symplocarpus foetidus (Eastern Skunk Cabbage, Clumpfoot Cabbage, Foetid Pothos, Meadow Cabbage, Polecat Weed, Skunk Cabbage, Swamp Cabbage)

I had to break off the top to see the interior. · 3/26/2012 · Groton Place and Sabine Woods, Groton, MA
≈ 2½ × 3" (6.8 × 8 cm)

Range:

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