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What’s that Smell?

April 27, 2015 - Latest, Naturalist's Notes

That smell is the Symplocarpus foetidus plant, known by most as Skunk Cabbage.

When skunk cabbage leaves are bruised or broken the plant gives off a rotting flesh smell. Skunk Cabbage is one of the first plants to start sprouting in the spring. It is a perineal plant that can create its own heat and melt the snow around it. Once it first sprouts it looks like it was taken right out of the Jurassic Park movies. The Eastern skunk cabbage sprouts a pod that is has a purple hue, as shown below. Once the leaves start to show up the plant loses this pod, and looks like green lettuce leaves. You will find this plant in the Wetland areas in forests.


7-17-12-skunk-cabbage-flowers sm skunkcab4 sm

Why in the world would a plant have such a grotesque smell one may ask? Well the skunk cabbage plant attracts many pollinators such as bees and beetles. It also repels many mammals like squirrels and raccoons. So rather than turning your nose up at the skunk cabbage solely because of the stench. Think about placing these plants in your garden to keep your fruits and vegetables around for a longer time!