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Skunk Cabbage - Lysichiton americanus




"Lysichiton americanus is a PERENNIAL growing to 1 m (3ft 3in) by 0.8 m (2ft 7in) at a slow rate."
"It is hardy to zone (UK) 6. It is in flower in April, and the seeds ripen from Jun to July. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Insects.Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers wet soil and can grow in water." [PFAF]


  • Lysichiton camtschatcensis auct. non (L.) Schott [E-flora]

Status: Native. [E-flora]
Lifecycle: Perennial [IFBC-E-flora]
Ecosystems: semi-aquatic, terrestrial.[IFBC-E-flora]
Type: herb.[IFBC-E-flora]
Height: 30-70 cm tall.[IFBC-E-flora]

Root: short, thick rhizome and fibrous roots. [IFBC-E-flora]
Stem: Several.[IFBC-E-flora]

Leaf Type: All basal. [IFBC-E-flora]
Leaf Shape: blades egg-shaped to broadly lanceolate, entire. [IFBC-E-flora]
Leaf Size: 30-150 cm long.[IFBC-E-flora]
Leaf Width: 10-70 cm wide.[IFBC-E-flora]
Leaf Stalk:short-stalked.[IFBC-E-flora]

Flowering Season: April, May.[2]
Inflorescence: Inflorescence of numerous, densely packed, perfect flowers in a cylindric spike 7-12 cm long, the spike on a 30- to 50-cm long stalk and subtended by a yellowish bract similar to the leaves in shape but much smaller.[IFBC-E-flora]
Ovaries: ovaries 2-celled.[IFBC-E-flora]
Perianth: 4-lobed.[IFBC-E-flora]

Berry: Berry-like.[IFBC-E-flora]
Berry Shape: broadly egg-shaped.[IFBC-E-flora]
Berry Color: greenish to reddish.[IFBC-E-flora]
Berry Size: 6 mm long.[IFBC-E-flora]
Seeds: seeds 1 or 2. [IFBC-E-flora]

Habitat: "Swamps, wet ditches and moist forests in the lowland and montane zones;" [IFBC-E-flora]
Range: "common in S BC west of the Coast-Cascade Mountains, less frequent elsewhere in BC south of 56degreeN; N to SE AK and S to MT, ID and CA." [IFBC-E-flora]


Food Use

Other Use

"Although most people regarded the leaves as "poisonous," due to their rank smell and their calcium oxalate crystals, their use in food preparation apparently did not cause any tainting of the food; the waxy outer coating of the leaves protected the food." [Turner, Kuhnlein]

Medicinal Use



Swamp cabbage can be cultivated in wet ground. Propagate by division or seeds.[Schofield] "Requires a wet or damp humus-rich soil in full sun or semi-shade[200]. Plants often do not flower when grown in the shade[99]. Grows well by water or in the bog garden[1]. Succeeds in shallow water and also in still or flowing water[188]. Hardy to at least -15°c[200]. Young plants require protection from slugs[187]. Plants are slow to establish at first, taking some years, but can then become naturalized and often self-sow[200]. The flowers have an unpleasant aroma[187] which is rather like a combination of skunk, carrion and garlic[245]. This smell attracts flies and midges in great numbers to pollinate the flowers and so spiders tend to like making their webs in the plant so they can catch lots of food[245]. Hybridizes with L. camtschatcense[200]." [PFAF]

Groundcover: The plants have very large leaves and form a slowly spreading clump. They can be grown as a ground cover, spaced about 1 metre apart each way[208]. [PFAF]


"The seed is best sown as soon as it is ripe in pots in a cold frame[134]. Keep very moist, preferably by emmersing the pot in 2 -3 cm of water[200]. Germination is usually good, taking place within 1 - 2 months at 15°c[134]. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in trays of water in the greenhouse for at least their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. Division in the middle of autumn or mid to late winter, but no later than this because the plant will be coming into growth." [PFAF]


The information presented on this site is provided for educational purposes. Self diagnosis and treatment, without due diligence, could be harmful and is not encouraged. Some information & images may be copyright. Every effort has been made to present the information in the spirit with which it was originally presented. Some data has been omitted for legal and/or practical consideration. There is some data not covered in the scope of this project, including, but not limited to, cell culture and large-dose animal studies. I have made comparisons and links between related species which may later prove erroneous. I have not verified the information for accuracy and I accept no responsibility for its authenticity. Many of the plants presented are poisonous, have poisonous properties, or could cause illness through misuse, allergic reaction, drug interactions and environmental contaminants. Please use caution and mindfulness when harvesting plants for any use.

Page last modified on 06-10-2016