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Symplocarpus foetidus

Skunk Cabbage

Family Araceae


Use
Flour, cooked green. Thoroughly dried rootsalks
can be ground into
flour. Dried young leaves can be reconstituted in soups.
CAUTION: RAW PLANT TISSUE CONTAINS CALCIUM OXALATE CRYSTALS,
WHICH PRODUCE A BURNING SENSATION IN THE MOUTH.
THESE
CAN ONLY BE REMOVED BY THOROUGH DRYING.

Description

Growth Form: Low herbaceous plant, height at maturity is 30-90cm (1-3ft).

Leaves: Large, wide, appear in spring after the flowers.

Flowers: Mottled greenish-yellow, brown, or purplish spathe covers round purple spadix. Flowers in late winter-early spring.

Fully emerged leaves (Dan Perlman.)Fully emerged leaves,
(c) Dan L. Perlman/EcoLibrary.org

Leaves emerging (Dan Perlman.)
Emerging leaves,
(c) Dan L. Perlman/EcoLibrary.org

Habitat and Range

Open and wet areas; mostly found in northern United States and southern Canada.

Season

Gather leaves in very early spring, and the rootstock from fall until early spring. These can then be dried for use any time.

Fun Facts

Known as 'skunk cabbage' because crushed plant matter gives off an unpleasant skunk-like odor. It is also known as polecat weed.'

This is one of few plants this far north that is able to metabolize stored energy and produce heat, allowing it to flower in early spring before most other plants.

Spadix (Hannah Ramer. Sachar Woods, Waltham, MA)
Spadix

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