Skunk Cabbage

Symplocarpus foetidus

native


Other Names:
Swamp Cabbage, Clumpfoot Cabbage, Meadow Cabbage, Foetid Pothos, Polecat Weed


Skunk Cabbage is a native plant found in much of Virginia. Some of it grows near the stream at the front end of Monticello Park. It is one of the few plants capable of generating heat metabolically, and it has bloomed while snow is still on the ground. It is capable of being on average 20 degrees warmer inside than the outside air temperature for close to two weeks. Its flowers have a somewhat skunk-like scent, which is the basis for its name. The putrid odor lures in its pollinators, primarily carrion-feeding flies and gnats, who are attracted to the scent of decomposing flesh. Skunk Cabbage also is visited by bees, beetles, and other insects, possibly because of the warmth of the flowers. The insects carry the pollen from one flower to another to pollinate the plants.

Identification Tools

Illinois Wildflowers Friends of the Wildflower Garden Go Botany

Ranges

North America Virginia

Skunk Cabbage
Skunk Cabbage poking up through a layer of snow. Photo by Michael Pollack.

Skunk Cabbage flowers
Skunk Cabbage flowers often come up before the leaves do

Skunk Cabbage flowers
Skunk Cabbage flowers are about baseball-sized

Skunk Cabbage flowers
Skunk Cabbage flowers, back view

Skunk Cabbage
Skunk Cabbage leaves and flowers

Skunk Cabbage
Skunk Cabbage leaves, large and lush

Skunk Cabbage
Skunk Cabbage plants in the low wet area north of the dog exercise area

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