Friday, April 1, 2011

Yellow skunk cabbage (Lysichiton americanus)

The yellow skunk cabbage is an American plant, as its scientific name Lysichiton americanus reveals [1-3]. The plant has yellow flowers and green, tobacco-like leaves with a skunky smell growing in aquatic and semi-aquatic habitat. Luckily I missed that smell, while taking pictures of the shown leaves in the “Arthur L. Menzies Garden of California Native Plants” section in the San Francisco Botanical Garden.

Yellow skunk cabbage, also known as American skunk-cabbage and western skunk-cabbage, belongs to the Arum family (Araceae) in the order Arales. Its natural area of distribution includes the coastal ranges of Northwest America between Alaska and California and certain areas of Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Nevada, and Utah. However, the skunk cabbage is also an invasive species in many parts of Europe, where it first was introduced for cultivation in Great Britain in 1901 and later (around 1975) as an ornamental plant in Sweden [3]. The cabbage spread to the wild. It has now been found at various sites in other countries including Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and Switzerland. Vegetation studies in invaded habitat have shown that Lysichiton americanus is out-competing smaller plants (including some endangered mosses and orchid species) by shadowing them with its large leaves. And what about out-smelling them with its said skunk odor?

References and further reading
[1] Peter Alden and Fred Heath:
Field Guide to California. Chanticleer Press, Inc and Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., New York, Seventh Printing 2007; page 138.
[2] USDA Plants Profile: Lysichiton americanus Hulté & H. St. John, American skunkcabbage [].
[3] Frank Klingenstein and Beate Alberternst: NOBANIS-Invsive Alien Species Fact Sheet: Lysichiton americanus [ americanus.pdf].

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