Skunk Cabbage In The Swamp

Skunk Cabbage Flower in bloom. The thick leaf surrounding the flower is called a spathe.

I went to the swamp to see if the Skunk Cabbage was up.  I was looking for those big green leaves that remind me of Hostas and at first didn’t see any.  I didn’t know when I started my walk in the woods that the flowers come up before the leaves.


A flower before the little yellow/green flowers emerge. The flower, which is about  the size of an elongated golf ball is called a spadix.

The first leaves I saw were pulled tight around the rest of the plant, like a buttoned-up overcoat on a cold winter day.

Then I noticed the flowers, lower to the ground, blending into the soggy leaves that mulched them.  The flowers warm the earth around them.  They can  heat up to 70degrees and even melt snow and frozen ground.

A Skunk Cabbage leaf before it opened


Skunk Cabbage smells bad when the leaves are broken. Which is why they are called Skunk Cabbage.  The smell, which mimics rotten meat, attracts flies, butterflies, bees and beetles who pollinate them.

A Skunk Cabbage pod and flower with the green leaves beginning to grow.

I didn’t think that animals ate Skunk Cabbage because of the smell.  But it’s actually because it causes a burning sensation when eaten.  So I was surprised to see that one of the flowers had been chewed on.  But I learned on the National Wildlife Federation website that bears will eat the young plants.

I’ve seen bear scat in the woods and once a bear.  But now I have another clue to look for to see if a bear has been in the woods where I walk.

6 thoughts on “Skunk Cabbage In The Swamp

  1. Maria…
    Your cabbage plant reminded me of our ocotillo shrub. Our area’s natural conditions determine what lifeforms can survive here. Of Arizona’s four deserts, the Sonoran Desert is most unique: its seven inches of average rainfall is enough to support specialized life such as the saguaro cactus and the ocotillo shrub.

    We bought an ocotillo about ten years ago. We followed planting instructions, but it looked like a bundle of dead sticks. For over a year, it lay dormant. Then one morning after a rain shower, it displayed numerous small, bright orange flowers. After the flowers, small leaves appeared.

    1. Oh that sounds like a wonderful plant Donald. I have a dream of seeing the flowers in the Sonoran Desert when they bloom. I visited there over 20 years ago and it is one of my favorite places. I’m going to google ocotillo shrub to see what it looks like. Thanks for your message.

  2. A sure sign of spring is when the skunk cabbage pops up. We have a lot of it growing along a nearby stream. It’s kind of weird looking yet beautiful in its own way. These photos are great!

  3. Skunk cabbage photos are such a gift. Such an unusual “personality” they have. A personal sign of spring for me. Picked my first dandelion today.

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