Common Names

The skunk cabbage is known by a variety of names, the most familiar being polecat-weed, swamp-cabbage, clump-foot cabbage, stinking poke.


It is a perennial herb with a very strong, disagreeable odour. The short, broad spathe appears very early in the spring before the leaves. The spathe is swollen, thick, leathery, pale-green, closely-streaked and spotted with purple or reddish brown, pointed, enveloping the short, round spadix covered with small purple flowers. The leaves, which appear much later, are large, bright green, heart-shaped, short-stalked, veiny, and clustered on the short ridged stem. The spadix enlarges in fruit, and the round seeds are imbedded.


The skunk cabbage is a native of Canada, and is found in bogs and moist land from Nova Scotia to Ontario.

Poisonous Properties

The whole plant contains acrid and noxious properties and has a strong, unpleasant odour. Cattle avoid it.

Western Skunk Cabbage (Lysichiton Camtschatcense Schott.)

The skunk cabbage of British Columbia is a very conspicuous plant at all times of the season; in the springtime by its large bright yellow spathe, in the summer by its leaves mostly three feet long and over a foot wide, and in the autumn by its long, stalked, large head of fruit.