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A stinky survivor

The green leaves of skunk cabbage brighten the lingering winter landscape as they emerge along this stream bank in Pike County, PA. The plant ranges between one to three feet in height when fully grown.

April 24, 2013

A sure sign of spring in the Upper Delaware region, particularly near waterways and boggy wetlands, is the green rising of skunk cabbage plants. So named for the repugnant odor of decaying flesh that the plant emits when bruised, this hardy perennial is also commonly referred to as polecat weed and hermit of the bog.

Skunk cabbage is an especially tenacious plant due to its contractile root system, which results in greater downward growth as roots contract and deepen, pulling the stem of the plant into the soil. The feature makes older plants nearly impossible to remove and helps to stabilize riverbanks.

Visit to read an enlightening article about skunk cabbage by Craig Holdrege of The Nature Institute.