Symplocarpus foetidus, commonly known as Skunk cabbage, polecat weed, meadow cabbage, or clump foot cabbage, is a low-growing plant that grows in moist hill slopes and humid areas of eastern North America.
Skunk cabbage is not a real cabbage but rather belongs to a primarily tropical family of plants in the Araceae (Arum) family. There are 3 species of perennial plants in the Symplocarpus genus.
The name Skunk cabbage is derived from the pungent, skunk smell given off when part of the plant is damaged or broken and its large leaves that grow in a cabbage-like rosette.
The Skunk cabbage flowers emerge from the ground in early spring before the leaves appear. The “flowers” actually comprise a spadix and a spathe. The spathe envelops a spadix, a cylindrical structure that contains a bouquet of small clustered flowers.
The spathes of skunk cabbage are 4-6 inches (10-15 cm) tall and range from brown and yellow to solid brown, while spadices are 2-5 inches (5-10 cm) and can be dark purple or pure yellow.
The leaves are impressive in size, 15.75-21.5 inches (40-55 cm) long and 12-15.75 inches (30-40 cm) wide.