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Spathyema foetida (L.) Raf.

Figure 95.—Skunkcabbage (Spathyema foetida)
Synonym.Symplocarpus foetidus (L.) Nutt.

Other common names.—Skunkweed, polecat weed, swamp cabbage, meadow cabbage, collard, fetid hellebore, stinking poke, pockweed.

Habitat and range.—Swamps and other wet places from Canada to Florida, Iowa, and Minnesota abound with this ill-smelling herb.

Description.—Skunkcabbage is a curious plant, the most striking characteristic of which is its rank, offensive odor. It is one of the very earliest of spring flowers appearing in February and March. The hood-shaped flower, which appears before the leaves, is oddly shaped and is not easily described, but its form is we]l shown in the illustration. The edges of the leaf are rolled inward, hiding the spadix inside, which is roundish and completely covered with numerous, dull-purple flowers. The leaves, which appear after the flower, are numerous and very large about 1 to 3 feet in length and about 1 foot in width. The rootstock and root when bruised have the characteristic odor of the plant.

Part used.—The rootstock with the roots, collected early in spring after the flower appears or after the seeds have ripened. It should be dried either in its entire state or deprived of its roots and sliced crosswise. It loses its value with age and should not be kept longer than one year.

Sievers, A.F. 1930. The Herb Hunters Guide. Misc. Publ. No. 77. USDA, Washington DC.
Last update Friday, April 3, 1998 by aw