Symplocarpus foetidus, skunk cabbage, is a perennial herbaceous wetland plant that blooms in February and is native to NJ.
Symplocarpus foetidus, skunk cabbage, is part of a group of plants that have this kind of unusual flowers with a spathe and spadix. The spathe is a modified bract that serves as a protective hood over the spadix. The spadix is the inflorescence, a modified cluster of flowers all fused together on a fleshy oval base.
The spathe and spadix. The spathe is 4-6 inches tall.
The spadix is 2-5 inches tall. The flower is bisexual meaning that it has both functioning pistils (female part) and stamens (male part). The flower is protogynous meaning that the pistil matures before the stamen. Also the flowers mature from the top of the spadix first. The younger flowers in the female phase are closer to the base (bottom right in the photo). The stamens surround the pistils in the more mature flowers.
Spadix closeup: Each flower has 4 stamens and 1 pistil and 4 tepals (sepal/petal). The individual flowers are seen.
Plant,Leaves and Habitat
Plant & Leaves:
Spathe starting in leaf litter
Spathe and leaves rolled up in some muck
Leaves unfurled and finished spathe at its base. Leaves can grow up to 36 inches long and a foot wide.
Habitat: Skunk cabbage grows in wetlands and swamps. It grows in forest understory and also in full sun where the roots can be always wet.
Text by Millie Ling and all photos by Hubert & Millie Ling. Photos: Various parks and preserves in NJ; Flowers in February & early March
Additional information / references:
- The USDA website shows Symplocarpus foetidus- Skunk Cabbage distribution in the US and other information: https://plants.usda.gov/home/plantProfile?symbol=SYFO
- Gardener's News article on skunk cabbage Click Here
- descriptons : Northeast School of Botanical Medicine https://7song.com/the-botany-of-skunk-cabbage/
- descriptons : SeeingNatureCCG https://seeingnatureccg.blog/2019/02/25/skunk-cabbage/
- descriptons : University of Wisconsin https://hort.extension.wisc.edu/articles/skunk-cabbage-symplocarpus-foetidus/