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Skunk Cabbage

Skunk Cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus)

FAMILY: Araceae (Arum Family)

BLOOMING PERIOD: Mid-February to early April

DESCRIPTION: Colonial perennial flowering before leaves emerge. Tiny greenish-white flowers aggregated on club-like spadix within fleshy purple-spotted hood (spathe). Leaves eventually expand into massive cabbage-like foliage far more conspicuous than the flowers.

DISTRIBUTION: Statewide but scattered and local. Most frequent in northeast, scarcest along Ohio River.

HABITAT: Soggy soil of spring-fed wooded wetlands.

NOTES: This is the first native wildflower to bloom in spring, often when snow and ice are still present. The flower structures are thermogenic; they produce enough heat to melt away surrounding ice. The curious leathery spathes are liver-spotted and house the spadix and flowers. About the time that flowering wanes, the leaves emerge. By late spring and on through summer, skunk cabbage colonies are very conspicuous due to the profusion of huge foul-smelling leaves.

Cedar Bog, Christmas Rocks and Gallagher Fen are a few state nature preserves you can see skunk cabbage from the trail.