Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Swamp Lantern aka Skunk Cabbage

Swamp Lantern is a perennial herbaceous plant in the Arum Family (Araceae). The name Skunk Cabbage is often used in reference to this plant due to the strong odor that fills any area where it is in bloom. The leaves are large, mostly erect with a strong main vein down the center and a smooth (entire) margin. The flowers are  very small and bloom in a tight, uniformed arrangement on a fleshy spike hooded by a single, large, bright-yellow bract.

Lysichiton americanus

The roots and leaves are edible, though not particularly tasty. It is known as famine food. Grazing animals do browse the leaves in early spring when there is little else to eat but leave them alone once they have a choice. The leaves are so large and tough that they are excellent for lining baskets or using like wax paper or making cups to drink out of or whatever your imagination allows.

It grows in (and is native to) swampy locations from Alaska to California and east to Idaho, Montana and Wyoming at low to middle elevations. It is an excellent garden plant for boggy areas or water's edge and is easily transplanted or propagated by divisions of the underground stem.

USDA Plants Database
Flora of the Pacific Northwest by Hitchcock & Cronquist
Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast by Pojar & Mackinnon