Vol. 11 Issue 2, Summer 2006
By Rachelle Hill
Neither skunk nor cabbage, this wildflower is perhaps a gem in disguise.
A spring perennial, Skunk Cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus) has a purple flower that wraps around its unique center, the spadix, like a loose, pocked, and cabbage-like swaddling cloth. The flowers themselves often appear during snowy periods, and the plant can generate enough heat to melt the snow around it. This plant’s leaves can be found as large as two feet across at peak growth. It is even fire resistant!
The flowers themselves often appear during snowy periods, and the plant can generate enough heat to melt the snow around it. Yet their leaves usually do not appear until the spring and sometimes even into the late fall.
The spadix develops in the mid-summer and is ovular shaped, 2-3 inches across. It first appears green and matures to black. This portion is its seedpod/fruit. While it is somewhat edible, it is not recommended since it can produce burns when eaten.
This plant gets the skunk portion of its name from the smell it emits when injured. This plant, by any other name, will definitely not smell sweet.