Indicator Plants

Lysichiton americanus – skunk cabbage

Common Name

skunk cabbage

Alternate Common Names
  • western skunk cabbage,
  • swamp lantern


Scientific Name

Lysichiton americanus

Soil Moisture Regime (SMR)
  • Wet (W)
  • Very Wet (VW)
Soil Nutrient Regime (SNR)
  • Rich (R)

Botanical Drawing

Hitchcock, C. Leo, and Arthur Cronquist. Flora of the Pacific Northwest: An Illustrated Manual © 1973. Reprinted with permission of the University of Washington Press.

General / Habitat
  • Large and robust perennial
  • Occurs in swamps, fens, wet forest, and seepages
  • Low to middle elevations
Key Identifying Characteristics
  • Form: 30-150 cm tall, fleshy and upright stem
  • Leaves: huge (up to 1.5 m long by 0.5 m wide), lance-shaped, net-veined, in a basal rosette
  • Flowers: greenish-yellow, many borne on spike hooded by large, bright-yellow bract, appearing before or with the leaves in very early spring
  • Fruit: green to reddish in colour with berry-like form and embedded in spike
  • Other: Emits skunky odour, especially when in flower
Interesting Characteristics
  • Important famine food for coastal peoples and post-hibernation food for bears

Douglas, G.W. et al (Editors). 1998-2002. Illustrated Flora of British Columbia, Volumes 1 to 8. B.C. Min. Environ., Lands and Parks, and B.C. Min. For., Victoria, B.C.

Pojar, J. and A. MacKinnon. 2014. Plants of Coastal British Columbia Including Washington, Oregon & Alaska. B.C. Ministry of Forestry and Lone Pine Publishing. Vancouver, B.C.


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