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Asian Skunk-cabbage

Lysichiton camtschatcensis

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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Araceae (Arum)
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
150 centimetres tall
Bogs, gardens, riverbanks, swamps, waterside, wetland, woodland.

White, 1 petal
The flowers of Asian Skunk-cabbage are striking and noteworthy for their unique appearance. Emerging in early spring, they typically boast a vibrant yellow color, contrasting sharply against the verdant foliage of their wetland habitats. The flowers are characterized by a spathe-and-spadix structure, with a spathe resembling a hood that envelops the central spadix, where the tiny, densely packed florets are clustered. This design not only serves as a protective mechanism for the delicate reproductive parts but also contributes to the plant's pollination strategy, often attracting a variety of insects, including flies and beetles, with their pungent odor. The bloom of the Asian Skunk-cabbage is not only visually captivating but also plays a crucial role in the ecology of its surroundings, serving as a vital food source for various pollinators and contributing to the biodiversity of wetland ecosystems.
The fruit of the Asian Skunk-cabbage develops following successful pollination of its flowers. It typically matures into a cluster of small, greenish berries arranged along a thickened stem. These berries, often spherical or slightly elongated in shape, contain seeds within. As they ripen, the berries may transition to a yellow or orange hue, adding a splash of color to the lush greenery of their wetland habitats. While the berries themselves are not typically consumed by humans due to their bitter taste and potential toxicity, they serve as a valuable food source for various wildlife species, including birds and small mammals, contributing to the ecological dynamics of the ecosystem. Additionally, the dispersal of seeds through animal consumption aids in the propagation and spread of the Asian Skunk-cabbage within its native range.
The leaves of the Asian Skunk-cabbage are notable for their large size and distinctive shape, making them a prominent feature of the plant. These leaves emerge in spring along with the flowers and can grow to impressive dimensions, often reaching lengths of up to one meter or more. They are typically broad and lance-shaped, with a glossy texture and a deep green coloration. The leaves are supported by sturdy petioles, or leaf stalks, which arise from the rhizomatous root system of the plant. Along the margins of the leaves, there may be slight undulations or irregularities, adding to their visual appeal. The large surface area of the leaves allows for efficient photosynthesis, enabling the plant to thrive in its preferred wetland habitats. Additionally, the leaves play a crucial role in capturing sunlight and converting it into energy, supporting the growth and reproductive success of the Asian Skunk-cabbage.
The fragrance of Asian Skunk-cabbage is distinctive and often described as pungent or foul-smelling, resembling the odor of rotting meat or decaying organic matter. This characteristic scent is emitted primarily by the flowers of the plant and serves as an adaptation to attract specific pollinators, such as flies and beetles, which are attracted to the odor for feeding and reproductive purposes. While the fragrance may be considered unpleasant to human senses, it plays a crucial role in the reproductive biology of the Asian Skunk-cabbage by aiding in the attraction of pollinators, ultimately contributing to the plant's successful reproduction and survival in its wetland habitats.
Other Names:
Kamchatka Skunk-cabbage, Western Skunk-cabbage, White Skunk Cabbage.
Frequency (UK):
Rarely seen  

Similar Species

Other Information


Lysichiton camtschatcensis, also known as Kamchatka skunk-cabbage, is a perennial herb in the Araceae family. It is native to northeastern Asia, specifically the Kamchatka Peninsula, the Kuril Islands, and the Sakhalin Island. The plant grows in wet habitats such as bogs, swamps, and along stream banks. It has large, glossy, heart-shaped leaves and a tall, dense spike of small yellow flowers that bloom in the spring. The plant is also known for its large, fleshy, white spathe (a large bract that surrounds the flowers) that emits a strong, skunk-like odor, which attracts pollinators. It is also used as an ornamental plant in gardens and in traditional medicine.


Asian Skunk-cabbage (Lysichiton camtschatcensis), also known as Kamchatka Skunk-cabbage or White Skunk-cabbage, is a fascinating plant that is native to the wetlands and streams of East Asia, specifically in the regions of Kamchatka, Sakhalin, and the Kuril Islands.

One of the most striking features of the Asian Skunk-cabbage is its large, bright green leaves that can grow up to 1.5 meters long and 60 centimeters wide. These leaves are shaped like a funnel or trumpet and have a wavy or ruffled edge. The plant's common name "Skunk-cabbage" comes from the unpleasant odor that the plant emits, especially when its leaves are crushed. Despite the smell, Asian Skunk-cabbage is a popular ornamental plant in some areas due to its impressive size and striking appearance.

Asian Skunk-cabbage is a member of the Arum family, which is known for its unusual flowers. The plant produces a tall, cylindrical spadix (a flower structure consisting of a spike surrounded by a leaf-like sheath) that is covered in small, greenish-yellow flowers. The spadix is surrounded by a large, showy bract, which is typically white, but can also be yellow or greenish-yellow. The flowers are pollinated by flies, which are attracted to the strong scent of the plant.

Asian Skunk-cabbage is a wetland plant that prefers to grow in moist, boggy soils with plenty of organic matter. The plant is often found growing along streams, in wet meadows, or in other areas with high water tables. In the wild, the plant spreads by underground rhizomes, which allow it to form large colonies. However, in cultivation, Asian Skunk-cabbage can be slow to establish and may require several years to reach its full size.

While Asian Skunk-cabbage is primarily grown as an ornamental plant, it is also used in traditional medicine in some parts of Asia. The plant has been used to treat a variety of ailments, including inflammation, coughs, and skin conditions. However, it should be noted that the plant contains calcium oxalate crystals, which can cause skin irritation and other adverse effects if ingested.

Asian Skunk-cabbage is a fascinating plant that is prized for its impressive size and striking appearance. While the plant's strong odor may be off-putting to some, its unique flowers and large, funnel-shaped leaves make it a popular choice for ornamental gardens. If you live in a wet, boggy area, or have a water feature on your property, consider adding Asian Skunk-cabbage to your garden to create a bold and dramatic display.

Asian Skunk-cabbage has been introduced to several countries outside of its native range, including the United States and Canada. In these areas, the plant has been classified as an invasive species, as it can quickly spread and outcompete native vegetation. In some cases, Asian Skunk-cabbage has been intentionally planted in wetlands to help control erosion and improve water quality. However, it is important to exercise caution when planting this species, as it can quickly become invasive in certain areas.

Despite its reputation as an unpleasant-smelling plant, Asian Skunk-cabbage is an important food source for several species of wildlife. The plant's large leaves provide cover and shelter for small animals, and the flowers are a source of nectar for bees and other pollinators. In addition, several species of birds, including ducks and geese, feed on the plant's seeds and foliage.

If you're interested in growing Asian Skunk-cabbage in your garden, it's important to keep in mind that the plant requires moist, boggy soil and plenty of space to grow. The plant can be grown from seed or by dividing mature rhizomes, although it may take several years for the plant to reach its full size. Asian Skunk-cabbage is hardy in USDA zones 5-9, and can tolerate partial shade or full sun.

Asian Skunk-cabbage is a unique and interesting plant that is prized for its impressive size and striking appearance. While it may not be suitable for every garden, it can make a bold statement in wetland or water garden settings. Whether you're interested in the plant for its ornamental value, its medicinal properties, or its role in supporting wildlife, Asian Skunk-cabbage is definitely a species worth learning more about.

One interesting fact about Asian Skunk-cabbage is that it has been used for centuries in traditional medicine by the indigenous peoples of Kamchatka and other areas where the plant is found. The plant has been used to treat a variety of conditions, including inflammation, rheumatism, and skin disorders. The plant's roots, leaves, and flowers all have medicinal properties, and are believed to be particularly effective at reducing swelling and inflammation.

In addition to its medicinal uses, Asian Skunk-cabbage has been used in several traditional crafts, particularly in the indigenous communities of Kamchatka. The plant's leaves are often used to make baskets, mats, and other woven goods, while the plant's large flower bracts are sometimes used as a decorative element in traditional clothing.

Another interesting aspect of Asian Skunk-cabbage is its role in the ecosystem. As a wetland plant, it plays an important role in helping to control erosion and improve water quality. The plant's large roots help to stabilize the soil in wetland areas, while its dense foliage provides cover and shelter for small animals and insects. Additionally, the plant's flowers and seeds are an important food source for several species of birds and other wildlife.

Finally, it's worth noting that Asian Skunk-cabbage is not the only species in its genus. There is another species, Lysichiton americanus, that is native to North America and is often called "Western Skunk-cabbage." While the two species are similar in appearance, they are not closely related and have different native ranges. Nonetheless, both species are beloved by gardeners and nature enthusiasts alike for their impressive size and striking appearance.

30 Facts About Asian Skunk-cabbage

Here are 30 facts about Asian Skunk-cabbage (Lysichiton camtschatcensis):

  1. Asian Skunk-cabbage is also known as Asian Skunk-cabbage, Asian skunk cabbage, or Japanese Skunk-cabbage.
  2. Its scientific name, Lysichiton camtschatcensis, reflects its origins in the Kamchatka Peninsula of Russia.
  3. Asian Skunk-cabbage is a perennial herbaceous plant.
  4. It belongs to the Araceae family, commonly known as the arum family.
  5. Asian Skunk-cabbage is native to eastern Asia, including regions such as Japan, China, and the Russian Far East.
  6. The plant is well-adapted to wetland habitats, often found in marshes, swamps, and along stream banks.
  7. It prefers moist, acidic soils and partial shade but can tolerate a wide range of growing conditions.
  8. Asian Skunk-cabbage produces large, showy flowers in early spring, typically March to April, before the leaves fully emerge.
  9. The flowers are characterized by a spathe-and-spadix structure, with a hood-like spathe enclosing a central spadix covered in tiny florets.
  10. The flowers emit a pungent odor resembling that of rotting meat, which attracts pollinating insects such as flies and beetles.
  11. Despite its unpleasant odor, Asian Skunk-cabbage is prized for its ornamental value in garden settings.
  12. The leaves of Asian Skunk-cabbage are large, broad, and lance-shaped, growing up to one meter or more in length.
  13. The leaves are supported by sturdy petioles arising from a rhizomatous root system.
  14. Asian Skunk-cabbage is dioecious, meaning individual plants produce either male or female flowers.
  15. The plant reproduces both sexually, via seeds produced in berries, and vegetatively, through rhizome growth.
  16. The berries of Asian Skunk-cabbage are greenish when immature, turning yellow or orange as they ripen.
  17. While the berries are not typically consumed by humans due to their bitter taste and potential toxicity, they provide food for wildlife.
  18. Asian Skunk-cabbage has been used traditionally in certain cultures for medicinal purposes.
  19. The plant contains calcium oxalate crystals, which can cause irritation and inflammation if ingested or handled without caution.
  20. In some regions, Asian Skunk-cabbage is considered an invasive species when introduced to non-native habitats.
  21. The plant has been introduced to parts of North America and Europe as an ornamental, but its aggressive growth can pose ecological challenges.
  22. Asian Skunk-cabbage is resistant to browsing by many herbivores due to its toxic properties.
  23. In its native range, Asian Skunk-cabbage plays a vital ecological role in wetland ecosystems, providing habitat and food for various wildlife species.
  24. The plant has been the subject of scientific study regarding its chemical composition and potential medicinal applications.
  25. Asian Skunk-cabbage is cultivated in botanical gardens and arboretums for research and educational purposes.
  26. Conservation efforts are underway to protect native populations of Asian Skunk-cabbage in some regions.
  27. The plant has been depicted in traditional art and literature in its native range.
  28. Asian Skunk-cabbage is sometimes confused with its North American relative, the Western Skunk-cabbage (Lysichiton americanus).
  29. In Japan, Asian Skunk-cabbage is known as "Mizubasho" and is celebrated in cultural festivals.
  30. The cultivation and propagation of Asian Skunk-cabbage require careful consideration of its specific growing requirements and ecological impacts.