Symplocarpus foetidus


Common Names: Eastern skunk cabbage, swamp cabbage, clumpfoot cabbage, meadow cabbage, foetid pothos, polecat weed
Category: Plants
Sub-category: Arum family


When the leaves are crushed, it emits a foul, skunk-like odor. Skunk cabbage is notable for its ability to generate temperatures of up to 15 to 35 degrees Celsius above air temperature by cyanide resistant cellular respiration in order to melt its way through frozen ground, placing it among a small group of plants exhibiting thermogenesis. Carrion-feeding insects that are attracted by the scent may be doubly encouraged to enter the spathe because it is warmer than the surrounding air, fueling pollination. Eastern Skunk Cabbage has contractile roots which contract after growing into the earth. This pulls the stem of the plant deeper into the mud, so that the plant in effect grows downward, not upward. Each year, the plant grows deeper into the earth, so that older plants are practically impossible to dig up.

Eastern skunk cabbage has leaves which are large, 40 to 55 cm long and 30 to 40 cm broad. The stems remain buried below the surface of the soil with the leaves emerging later. The flowers are produced on a 5 to 10 cm long spadix contained within a spathe, 10 to 15 cm tall and mottled purple in color. The rhizome is often 30 cm thick.

Commonly found in swamps and soft wetland soils. It flowers early in the spring when only the flowers are visible above the mud.

Primary Flower Color: Red/Orange
Secondary Flower Color: Blue/Purple
 
Edible Notes: While not considered edible raw, because the roots are toxic and the leaves can burn the mouth, the leaves may be dried and used in soups and stews.
Warnings: Not known to be dangerous.
Sightings