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Bransford, W.D. and Dolphia
Lysichiton americanus HultÚn & St. John
American skunkcabbage, Yellow-skunk-cabbage, Swamp lantern
USDA Symbol: LYAM3
USDA Native Status: Native to U.S.
Yellow-skunk-cabbage is a large, handsome perennial that begins the season with an unusual flower and continues through the summer as a rosette of monstrous, paddle-shaped, tropical-looking, glossy leaves which rise to 3 ft. or more. A spike of minute flowers surrounded by a large, conspicuous yellow or cream bract open on one side; grows on a stout stalk in a cluster of giant, erect, leaves. The flower is a club of greenish-yellow flowerlets surrounded by a large, yellow spathe up to 8 in. long. The flowers eventually become reddish berries.
The common name refers to the skunk-like odor of the sap and the fetid odor of the flowers, which draws flies as pollinators. The peppery sap was once used as a treatment for ringworm. The short, fleshy underground stem is eaten by animals. Baked, it supplemented the winter diets of Indians.
Plant CharacteristicsDuration: Perennial Habit: Herb Flower:
Green Size Class:
Bloom InformationBloom Color: Yellow , Green
Bloom Time: Mar , Apr , May
AK , CA , ID , MT , OR , WA , WY Canada: BC Native Distribution:
AK to Del Norte & Santa Cruz Cos., CA, less commonly e. to n.w. MT Native Habitat:
Cool swamps & bogs USDA Native Status: L48(N), AK(N), CAN(N)
Growing ConditionsLight Requirement: Part Shade
Soil Moisture: Wet
Soil Description: Wet soils.
Conditions Comments: Skunk cabbage grows where many plants would die, thriving in sites with extremely poor drainage and low aeration. Plan for the large gap this plant leaves in winter when it goes dormant. If crushed, the leaves produce a pungent, skunk-like odor.
BenefitUse Wildlife: The stems and roots of skunk cabbage are eaten by bears and elk.
Interesting Foliage: yes
Fragrant Foliage: yes
PropagationDescription: Easily propagated by division of the large, underground rhizome. Seeds are said to germinate readily.
Seed Collection: Not Available
Seed Treatment: No treatment is necessary.
Commercially Avail: yes
From the National Organizations Directory
According to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is either on display or available from the following:
Santa Barbara Botanic Garden
- Santa Barbara, CANative Seed Network
- Corvallis, OR
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Record Modified: 2009-03-18
Research By: TWC Staff