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Lysichiton americanus (American skunkcabbage)
Bransford, W.D. and Dolphia

Lysichiton americanus

Lysichiton americanus Hultén & H. St. John

American Skunkcabbage, Yellow-skunk-cabbage, Swamp Lantern

Araceae (Arum Family)

Synonym(s): Lysichiton camtschatcensis

USDA Symbol: LYAM3

USDA Native Status: L48 (N), AK (N), CAN (N)

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 5 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 florets 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.


From the Image Gallery

3 photo(s) available in the Image Gallery

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Herb
Fruit Type: Berry
Size Notes: Up to about 5 feet tall.
Fruit: Green

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: Yellow , Green
Bloom Time: Feb , Mar , Apr , May


USA: 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

Growing Conditions

Light Requirement: Part Shade
Soil Moisture: Wet
Aquatic: yes
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.


Use Wildlife: The stems and roots of skunk cabbage are eaten by bears and elk.
Interesting Foliage: yes
Fragrant Foliage: yes


Description: Easily propagated by division of the large, underground rhizome. Seeds are said to germinate readily.
Seed Treatment: No treatment is necessary.
Commercially Avail: yes

Find Seed or Plants

Find seed sources for this species at the Native Seed Network.

National Wetland Indicator Status

This information is derived from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers National Wetland Plant List, Version 3.1 (Lichvar, R.W. 2013. The National Wetland Plant List: 2013 wetland ratings. Phytoneuron 2013-49: 1-241). Click here for map of regions.

From the National Organizations Directory

According to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:

Santa Barbara Botanic Garden - Santa Barbara, CA
Native Seed Network - Corvallis, OR
Mt. Cuba Center - Hockessin, DE


Bibref 928 - 100 easy-to-grow native plants for Canadian gardens (2005) Johnson, L.; A. Leyerle

Search More Titles in Bibliography

Web Reference

Webref 38 - Flora of North America (2019) Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO & Harvard University Herbaria, Cambridge, MA.
Webref 23 - Southwest Environmental Information Network (2009) SEINet - Arizona Chapter

Additional resources

USDA: Find Lysichiton americanus in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Lysichiton americanus in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Lysichiton americanus


Record Modified: 2023-02-17
Research By: TWC Staff

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