Skunk cabbage grows in low woods and shrub swamps with rich organic soils that are often flooded in spring and saturated to the surface most of the year.
Origin of the name: Symplocarpus, L., simplex, one, together; Gr. karpos, fruit -- refers to the seeds staying together embedded in the spadix; foetidus, L., foetere, to stink
Range: Eastern N. America, from southeast Canada west to Iowa; E. Asia
WI Range: Statewide
Common associates: Marsh marigold, black ash
Wetland Indicator Status: OBL
Coefficient of Conservatism: C = 8 (S&W), C = 6 (MI)
It's the first native plant to bloom, starting in
February when the heat from cellular respiration melts nearby ice and snow. The leaves emerge after flowering as a compact cigar-shape roll (top).
Once unfolded, leaves grow up to 1 foot wide and 2 feet tall. It's perennial, usually growing in colonies from a thick rhizome. Both the flower and the leaves have a skunk-like odor when crushed.
are on an ovoid spadix hidden in a green or purple hooded spathe (top).
The spathe helps hold in the flowers' heat to vaporize the scent that attracts pollinating insects and to keep them active. The seeds form inside the spadix.