Friday, March 17, 2006

Skunk Cabbage

Skunk Cabbage Sumplocarpus foetidus Arum family
We went out searching for the skunk-cabbage, there is a swampy area where they are prevalent and we discover them just beginning to push their heads up above the boggy earth.
24” Shell-like 6” spathe, mottled brownish purple and green encloses knob-like spadix covered with tiny flowers. Leaves very large, cabbage-like, veined; unfurl from tight roll after flowering. Smells like decaying meat, attracts pollinating insects. From Audubon Society Field Guide to New England.
The first plant that shows the influence of the changing season in this part of the country is very little like the delicate snow-drop, or the fragrant violet of other lands. Long before the earliest trees are in bud, or the grass shows the faintest tinge of green, the dark spathe of the skunk-cabbage makes its way in the midst of snow and ice. It is singular that at a moment when the snow is generally frost-bound, any plant should find out that spring is at hand; but toward the close of February, or beginning of March, the skunk-cabbage makes a good guess at the time of the year, and comes up in marshy spots, on the banks of ponds and streams. With us it is almost a winter plant. The dark spathe or sheath is quite handsome, variegated, when young, with purple, light green, and yellow; within it grows the spadix, not unlike a miniature pineapple in shape and color, and covered with little protuberances, from each of which opens a purple flower. Although a very common plant, many persons familiar with its broad glossy leaves in summer have never seen the flower, and have no idea how early it blossoms. Its strong, offensive odor is better known; an American botanist has observed that “it is exceedingly meritorious of the name it bears; “ but this seems too severs, since a harsher thing could not well be said of a plant. – Susan Fenimore Cooper "Rural Hours", entry for March 24,

I am greatly enjoying Rural Hours which is a journal from the late 1840's.


Blogger Pam in Tucson said...

Lovely quote from Rural Hours. The Whorled Leaves gang just read the book and I followed their comments - it's now on my reading list. Fine photos, too, of skunk cabbage. Your great post brought back fond memories of spring walks in the Connecticut woods.

2:05 PM  
Blogger Ontario Wanderer said...

As you know from my blog, the Skunk Cabbage is one of my favourite flowers. I think it is a favourite just because it is such an oddball plant and the flowers are so often ignored or unknown. Nice to see that your found them as I know your were looking earlier.

Today I found Storksbill blooming in front of the gym that I go to. I would be willing to bet that very few people know that it exists and is blooming now too.

5:15 PM  
Blogger dragonfly183 said...

Hey!!!! I've seen that before and had no idea what it was :). I'll know next time.

12:55 PM  
Blogger GoGo said...

I just had a conversation about skunk cabbage that had nothing to do with anything other than cabbage was on the brain and I wanted to know what exactly was sunk cabbage. Serendipty, I found the answer!

I am also appreciating your tone of humor: "but toward the close of February, or beginning of March, the skunk-cabbage makes a good guess at the time of the year..."

Thank you

5:47 PM  
Blogger Rain said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

7:40 PM  
Blogger Rain said...

Interesting on the skunk cabbage and surprising as out here in the northwest, they are yellow. I don't have any pictures yet as haven't been up to where they are on our road, but considering how cold it's been, ours might not be up yet anyway. I did find this link about them with a picture--

7:42 PM  
Blogger In Otter Space said...

What beautiful pictures Endment. Amazing that something so smelly can be beautiful! This is just one more reason I know that GOD has a sense of humor.

8:46 PM  
Blogger Endment said...

pam in tucson
I followed the comments also... glad to spark fond memories

ontario wanderer
this is an interesting plant... I enjoy it because it is such a part of early spring... I don't know the Storksbill..

Glad you know what it is now...
Thanks for visiting my blog and commenting

It is always fun to be part of a Serendipity!

I have seen the western skunk cabbage in the mountains --- thanks for the link

in otter space
on certain days -- when the air is close it seems like more than a sense of humor...!

thanks to each of you for your comments

5:11 AM  

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