Advanced Search Filters

Plant Type
Hardiness Zone
Heat Zone
Sunset Zone
Function
Sun Exposure
Soil Moisture
Water Requirement

LYSICHITON americanus

Image of Lysichiton americanus

Mark A. Miller

Family

Araceae

Botanical Name

LYSICHITON americanus

Plant Common Name

American Skunkcabbage, Swamp Lantern, Yellow Skunkcabbage

General Description

In early spring the foul-smelling wetland wildflower, American skunkcabbage, puts forth yellow aroid flowers followed by enormous ornamental clumps of large elliptical leaves that remain into summer. This herbaceous perennial grows from deep-rooted rhizomes, which are edible and helped sustain Native Americans in winter months. The foetid flowers actually emanate heat when they open in earliest spring and have been known to melt snow. This species is native to northwestern North America, from southern Alaska southward to California and across to Montana. In many parts of Eurasia it has become invasive.

In late winter to early spring, yellow flowers comprised of a club-like spadix partially cloaked by a pale yellow to light yellow-green spathe. Beetles and flies pollinate the tiny flowers lining the spadix. As the soil warms, the leaves emerge from the soil and eventually cover the flagging flowers. Each large, lustrous green leaf is held upright and is somewhat paddle-shaped. The foliage sometimes dies back in summer when moist ground dries but can also remain attractive into fall. Stalks of dark reddish berries can be seen in fall.

This native wildflower is not for the everyday gardener and is best reserved for large, moist, naturalistic gardens. It tends to grow and needs plenty of space. Provide it with deep, fertile soil that is moist to wet. It naturally grows in swamps, stream or pond edges and moist old fields. If soil moisture is abundant, it will tolerate full sun. Otherwise it requires bright dappled shade. Daring gardeners may try growing is in a large container.

The foliage and rhizome roots of American skunkcabbage are edible but must be boiled to remove the calcium oxylate toxins in them.

This species, when grown in close proximity to the white-blooming Asian skunkcabbage, will hybridize to create new plants with intermediate, variably colored flowers.

Characteristics

  • AHS Heat Zone

    7 - 1

  • USDA Hardiness Zone

    3 - 8

  • Sunset Zone

    A3, 3a, 3b, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 14, 15, 16, 17

  • Plant Type

    Perennial

  • Sun Exposure

    Full Sun, Partial Sun, Partial Shade

  • Height

    2'-3' / 0.6m - 0.9m

  • Width

    2'-3' / 0.6m - 0.9m

  • Bloom Time

    Early Spring, Spring, Late Winter

  • Native To

    Northwestern United States, Alaska, California, Canada

Growing Conditions

  • Soil pH

    Neutral

  • Soil Drainage

    Poorly Drained

  • Soil type

    Loam, Sand

  • Tolerances

    Wet Site

  • Growth Rate

    Medium

  • Water Requirements

    Average Water, Ample Water

  • Habit

    Clump-Forming

  • Seasonal Interest

    Spring, Summer, Fall

Ornamental Features

  • Flower Interest

    Showy

  • Flower Color

    Light Yellow, Yellow Green

  • Fruit Color

    Dark Red, Sienna

  • Foliage Color (Spring)

    Green

  • Foliage Color (Summer)

    Green

  • Foliage Color (Fall)

    Green

  • Fragrant Flowers

    Yes

  • Fragrant Fruit

    No

  • Fragrant Foliage

    Yes

  • Bark or Stem Fragrant

    No

  • Repeat Bloomer

    No

  • Showy Fruit

    No

  • Edible Fruit

    No

  • Foliage Texture

    Coarse

  • Foliage Sheen

    Glossy

  • Evergreen

    No

  • Showy Bark

    No

Special Characteristics

  • Usage

    Bog Garden, Container, Water Gardens, Wildflower

  • Sharp or Has Thorns

    No

  • Invasive

    Sometimes

  • Self-Sowing

    No