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Fast Fact: Skunk Cabbage

Updated: Dec 29, 2023

When you’ve grown tired of winter, look for skunk cabbage as a sign that spring is on the way. This plant is one of the first to emerge each year, usually in February or early March. Skunk cabbage is able to bloom even in cold weather because it can make its own heat, allowing it to emerge even when snow and ice still cover the ground.

Skunk cabbage emerging from the ground.
Skunk cabbage emerging from the ground. (Photo by Chad Merda)

The first parts of the plant to poke above the ground are the dark purple flower buds. Skunk cabbage might seem like a weird name for a plant, but you can probably guess how it got its name. The flowers of the plant smell bad, kind of like a skunk’s spray, according to some. That smell serves a purpose, though. The rotting scent helps attract pollinating insects, which the plant relies on for reproduction.


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