Plant Common Name
Clumpfoot Cabbage, Eastern Skunk Cabbage, Foetid Pothos, Skunk Cabbage, Swamp Cabbage
The bold, impressive looks of this spring wetland wildflower match the bold, noxious smell that emanates from its carrion-colored aroid flowers. Native to northeastern North America, from Quebec down to the Carolinas and as far west as Minnesota, this hardy perennial thrives in bogs, swamps and moist meadows. It's flowers appear before the foliage in earliest spring and are unique on that they generate heat, up to 60 to 95°F (15 to 35°C) even on the coldest days. Huge, bold rosettes of bright green foliage follow the flowers and remain into summer. As a garden plant it would only be useful in large, wet, naturalistic gardens. Native Americans valued it as a medicinal for a variety of ailments.
In earliest spring, classic aroid flowers emerge from the soil with mottled maroon red spathes each surrounding a bulbous, knobby, yellow spadex. Flies and other carrion loving insects are drawn to the warmth and overwhelming stink of the blooms. They are the chief pollinators but some studies also suggest the flowers are like wind tunnels able to catch and spread pollen, so wind pollination also may occur. Clusters of large, simple, bright green leaves unfurl around the flowers and eventually envelope them entirely. The leaves remain attractive through summer but will quickly wane if soil moisture dries up. Small bulbous stalks of reddish berry like fruits are produced 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 large containers or moist gardens but should expect unwelcome smells in early spring.
AHS Heat Zone
8 - 1
USDA Hardiness Zone
3 - 8
Full Sun, Partial Sun, Partial Shade
1'-3' / 0.3m - 0.9m
1'-4' / 0.3m - 1.2m
Early Spring, Spring, Late Winter
Northeastern United States, Mid-Atlantic United States, North-Central United States, Canada