Thursday, September 23, 2010

Trip Report: Skunk Cabbage in the northwest

On our trip to the northwest back in June, Christie and I ran across the Western Skunk Cabbage (Lysichiton americanus) in several different locations.  I hadn't seem them in person before, so I didn't initially recognize them.  Actually I had a kind of hilarious encounter with one several days before realizing what it was.

Skunk Cabbage (Lysichiton americanus) growing in a pond at the Capilano Suspension Bridge park
Here's the story:

I spend quite a bit of time around plants: at my own house, in plant stores, in nature.  I'm always pointing out different things to Christie: grabbing a leaf and pointing out something about the variegation or vein pattern or something else she probably is not too interested in.  Anyway, because I am used to dealing with plants, I can usually tell by looking at a plant what kind of care I need to take in handling it.  Well, for whatever reason this was not the case with the Skunk Cabbage.  We were walking along a hiking trail on this insanely long walk down to a beach from the road.  (The distance was not advertised, but we determined later it was approximately seven times longer than we would have preferred.)  I noticed something interesting about the plant along the side of the path (though I don't remember what was interesting now) and I called Christie's attention to it.  I grabbed the leaf, pulling it towards us and RIP!  This huge, beautiful leaf (about 3 feet long) just tore in half in my hand!  It wasn't a horrible loss considering there were hundreds of these plants within eyesight, but I felt horrible about it.  And it was pretty hilarious because I was like "Hey Christie, check out this - "  RIP! "Whoops!"

Anyway, that's the story.  It was several days later when we were in Vancouver at the Capilano Suspension Bridge park when I saw the spadix left over from an inflorescence on one of these plants.  That was when I realized what it was.  I think we got down close to it and could still smell the leftover stench of the bloom.  In the area where there were several of these plants it smelled like you were standing near a dumpster.  There wasn't an overwhelming smell, but you could definitely smell it.  We saw the spadices on several plants, but none still had the nice yellow spathe left.

Skunk Cabbage inflorescence

1 comment:

  1. How funny! It sounds like it was named appropriately...:)