Saturday, April 09, 2011

Coastal BC Plants: Western Skunk Cabbage

Western Skunk Cabbage

I'm usually in Powell River this time of year for one of the sure signs of spring, the bright yellow lantern shaped flowers of the Western Skunk Cabbage. Swampy and boggy areas are where you will find it growing. For such an ugly name, it is a beautiful plant - at least I think so.

It can be found from Kodiak, Alaska, to Northern California, and as far east as Wyoming. Oddly, it can also be found in England and Scotland. Right behind our condo in Bellingham is a riparian zone (protected wetland) with a creek right in the middle. It's a perfect spot for Skunk Cabbage.

Western Skunk Cabbage (Lysichiton americanus) is also called Swamp Lantern, an apt name because of the shape and bright glow of its large hooded flower. The common name comes from the bad odour that the flower emits. It sounds strange, but the smell is what attracts its pollinators, flies and beetles. Bears and deer eat them despite their strong smell.

It's a little thing, but it makes me feel more connected to home. Maybe you can find some near your home. Happy flower hunting! -- Margy


  1. Great pics & lovely glimpse of spring. You can see SC's relationship to the Jack-in-the-Pulpit family. Geez, hate it when the forbs get all preachy.

  2. Beautiful flowers! So unusual to see them springing up like that. I've only seen it's relative calla before. Great photos.

  3. skunk cabbage! i'm a fan of this plant. we have a lot of it around here, it's surprisingly pretty with a name like that!

  4. I was told that you'll find it in the UK because gardeners there were smitten by it - and it's now naturalized. It really is a stunning flower structure.

  5. I think western skunk cabbage is much more attractive than the eastern version. I wonder if they sell the same.

  6. Swamp lantern is a much prettier name! I love this sign of spring.


We welcome your comments and questions. - Wayne and Margy