Plants, Fine Art Prints

- Art Gallery -

Symplocarpus foetidus

Symplocarpus foetidus

Classification System: APG IV

Superregnum: Eukaryota
Regnum: Plantae
Cladus: Angiosperms
Cladus: Monocots
Ordo: Alismatales

Familia: Araceae
Subfamilia: Orontioideae
Genus: Symplocarpus
Species: Symplocarpus foetidus

Symplocarpus foetidus (L.) Salisb. ex W.P.C.Barton, 1817

Dracontium foetidum L., Sp. Pl.: 967 (1753).
Pothos foetidus (L.) Aiton, Hort. Kew. 3: 319 (1789).
Spathyema foetida (L.) Raf., Med. Repos. Original Essays Intelligence Phys. 5: 352 (1808).
Ictodes foetidus (L.) Bigelow, Amer. Med. Bot. 2: 41 (1818).
Pothos putorii Barton, Fl. Virgin.: 60 (1812).
Spathyema angusta Raf., Fl. Tellur. 4: 13 (1838).
Spathyema lanceolata Raf., Fl. Tellur. 4: 13 (1838).
Spathyema latifolia Raf., Fl. Tellur. 4: 13 (1838).

Native distribution areas:

Continental: Northern America
Connecticut; Delaware; District of Columbia; Illinois; Indiana; Iowa; Maine; Maryland; Masachusettes; Michigan; Minnesota; New Brunswick; New Hampshire; New Jersey; New York; North Carolina; Nova Scotia; Ohio; Ontario; Pennsylvania; Quebec; Rhode I.; Tennessee; Vermont; Virginia; West Virginia; Wisconsin

References: Brummitt, R.K. 2001. TDWG – World Geographical Scheme for Recording Plant Distributions, 2nd Edition

Salisbury, R.A., 1817. Veg. Mater. Med. U.S. 1: 124


Govaerts, R. et al. 2018. Symplocarpus foetidus in World Checklist of Selected Plant Families. The Board of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Published on the internet. Accessed: 2018 Nov. 14. Reference page.
International Plant Names Index. 2018. Symplocarpus foetidus. Published online. Accessed: Nov. 14 2018.
The Plant List 2013. Symplocarpus foetidus in The Plant List Version 1.1. Published on the internet. Accessed: 2018 Nov. 14. 2018. Symplocarpus foetidus. Missouri Botanical Garden. Published on the internet. Accessed: 2018 Nov. 14.

Vernacular names
English: Eastern Skunk Cabbage, Clumpfoot Cabbage, Foetid Pothos, Meadow Cabbage, Polecat Weed or Swamp Cabbage
suomi: Suohaisuhuppu
日本語: ザゼンソウ、座禅草
한국어: 앉은부채
polski: Skupnia

ymplocarpus foetidus, commonly known as skunk cabbage[2] or eastern skunk cabbage (also swamp cabbage, clumpfoot cabbage, or meadow cabbage, foetid pothos or polecat weed), is a low growing plant that grows in wetlands and moist hill slopes of eastern North America. Bruised leaves present a fragrance reminiscent of skunk.

Symplocarpus foetidus leaves out in mid-spring after the flowers have bloomed.

Eastern skunk cabbage has leaves which are large, 40–55 cm (16–22 in) long and 30–40 cm (12–16 in) broad. It flowers early in the spring when only the flowers are visible above the mud. The stems remain buried below the surface of the soil with the leaves emerging later. The flowers are produced on a 5–10 cm (2–4 in) long spadix contained within a spathe, 10–15 cm (4–6 in) tall and mottled purple in colour. The rhizome is often 30 cm (0.98 ft) thick.


The eastern skunk cabbage is native to eastern North America, from Nova Scotia and southern Quebec west to Minnesota, and south to North Carolina and Tennessee. It is protected as endangered in Tennessee.[2]


Breaking or tearing a leaf produces a pungent but harmless odor, the source of the plant's common name; it is also foul smelling when it blooms. The plant is not poisonous to the touch. The foul odor attracts its pollinators: scavenging flies, stoneflies, and bees. The odor in the leaves may also serve to discourage large animals from disturbing or damaging this plant, which grows in soft wetland soils.

Eastern skunk cabbage is notable for its ability to generate temperatures of up to 15–35 °C (27–63 °F) above air temperature by cyanide resistant cellular respiration in order to melt its way through frozen ground,[3] placing it among a small group of thermogenic plants. Even though it flowers while there is still snow and ice on the ground, it is successfully pollinated by early insects that also emerge at this time. Some studies suggest that beyond allowing the plant to grow in icy soil, the heat it produces may help to spread its odor in the air.[3] Carrion-feeding insects that are attracted by the scent may be doubly encouraged to enter the spathe because it is warmer than the surrounding air, fueling pollination.[4][5]

Eastern skunk cabbage has contractile roots which contract after growing into the earth. This pulls the stem of the plant deeper into the mud, so that the plant in effect grows downward, not upward. Each year, the plant grows deeper into the earth, so that older plants are practically impossible to dig up. They reproduce by hard, pea-sized seeds which fall in the mud and are carried away by animals or by floods.

Some blowflies, such as Calliphora vomitoria are known pollinators of skunk cabbage.

In the 19th century the U.S. Pharmacopoeia listed eastern skunk cabbage as the drug "dracontium". It was used in the treatment of respiratory diseases, nervous disorders, rheumatism, and dropsy. In North America and Europe, skunk cabbage is occasionally cultivated in water gardens.[6] Skunk cabbage was used extensively as a medicinal plant, seasoning, and magical talisman by various tribes of Native Americans.[7] The thoroughly dried young leaves are quite good reconstituted in soups or stews. The thoroughly dried rootstocks can be made into a pleasant cocoa-like flour.

Skunk cabbage often contains calcium oxalate crystals, and therefore the plant is considered to have medium toxicity to humans. The toxicity may be removed through careful preparation.[8] Skunk cabbage has been associated with 1% to 25% incidence of congenital deformities of lambs in flocks grazing pastures contaminated with skunk cabbage[9]


Kew World Checklist of Selected Plant Families
USDA PLANTS Database: S. foetidus
Thorington, Katherine K. (April 1999). "Pollination and Fruiting Success in the Eastern Skunk Cabbage". The Journal of Biospheric Science. 1 (1).
Marinelli, Janet (2007). "Backyard Habitat: Turning Up the Heat on Your Property". National Wildlife Magazine. Vol. 45 no. 1 Dec/Jan. p. 14. Archived from the original on February 9, 2007. Retrieved March 3, 2007.
Rice, Graham (2012). "The flowering of Symplocarpus". The Plantsman. No. March. pp. 54–57. Archived from the original on 20 April 2015.
Flora of North America: S. foetidus
Dr. Moerman's Native American Ethnobotanical Database: S. foetidus
Symplocarpus foetidus
Binns, Wayne; James, Lynn F.; Shupe, James L. (2006-12-15). "TOXICOSIS OF VERATRUM CALIFORNICUM IN EWES AND ITS RELATIONSHIP TO A CONGENITAL DEFORMITY IN LAMBS". Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. 111 (2): 571–576. doi:10.1111/j.1749-6632.1964.tb53124.x. ISSN 0077-8923.

Plants Images

Biology Encyclopedia

Retrieved from ""
All text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License

Home - Hellenica World