Symplocarpus foetidus (L.) Nutt.
Coefficient of Conservatism: 6
Coefficient of Wetness: -5
Wetness Index: OBL
Physiognomy: Nt P-Forb

Common in swamps, ravines and hollows in beech-maple forests, floodplains and bottomland, stream borders, etc., in the southern half of the Lower Peninsula. Northward, generally very local (except on some islands in the Great Lakes) and often in coniferous swamps. Colonies of skunk-cabbage ascending wooded slopes and sides of ravines indicate the presence of seepage springs.

The familiar flowering spadix with its strong odor and hooded spathe is the first wildflower of the spring, often blooming through the snow (and producing heat to melt snow and ice and presumably warm the interior for the pollinators comfort; see Seymour (1997)). The first flowering collections of this from southernmost Michigan are from early March and, doubtless, in some years, it is in bloom by late February. It is followed by development of the large leaves which, especially when bruised, also produce the odor. The large, knobby black fruit, somewhat resembling a small pineapple, matures in late fall, when plants are leafless, and is often not recognized as belonging to skunk-cabbage. The large (up to 1 cm diameter), pale brown seeds are imbedded in a spongy white matrix inside the fruit.  

This remarkable plant has contractile roots that pull its long, trunk-like rhizome into the ground as growth proceeds; the lower portion gradually rotting away as the plant ages. Plants appear to reach great age, most effusively expressed by Shull (1924): "…the Skunk Cabbage that is seen today growing in unpretentiousness in any bog may possibly outrival the sturdiest of the oaks in point of age, may not improbably have occupied that very spot long years before Columbus set foot upon our shores and may continue there a thousand years and more from now if only the fates be kind."



Alger County
Allegan County
Alpena County
Baraga County
Barry County
Benzie County
Berrien County
Branch County
Calhoun County
Cass County
Charlevoix County
    Only on Beaver Island
Cheboygan County
Chippewa County
Clinton County
Crawford County
Eaton County
Genesee County
Grand Traverse County
Gratiot County
Hillsdale County
Houghton County
Ingham County
Ionia County
Iosco County
Isabella County
Jackson County
Kalamazoo County
Kalkaska County
Kent County
Keweenaw County
    Including Isle Royale
Lake County
Leelanau County
    Only on Fox Islands
Lenawee County
Livingston County
Luce County
Mackinac County
Marquette County
Mason County
Mecosta County
Missaukee County
Montmorency County
Muskegon County
Oakland County
Ontonagon County
Osceola County
Oscoda County
Ottawa County
Saginaw County
Schoolcraft County
Shiawassee County
St. Clair County
St. Joseph County
Tuscola County
Van Buren County
Washtenaw County


MICHIGAN FLORA ONLINE. A. A. Reznicek, E. G. Voss, & B. S. Walters. February 2011. University of Michigan. Web. November 26, 2022.