American skunk cabbage (Lysichiton americanus) has huge leathery leaves between 40cm – 1.5m, and bright yellow ‘flowers’ up to 45cm. The yellow ‘flowers’ emerge first around April time, followed by the leaves. The centre spike (also known as the spadix) is covered in tiny flowers which contain seeds. These seeds spread via waterways, but it is also likely they can be spread by animals and birds; by attaching to their fur, or by their droppings.
It is found in damp environments; such as pond margins, stream sides, bogs and wet woodlands. It is well adapted to a range of environments and conditions, and can survive in both shaded and well-lit areas, as well as a wide range of soil conditions and areas that are regularly disturbed.
It was introduced as an ornamental plant and was widely planted besides ponds, and spread into the natural environment where it continues to spread today. At first, the invasion is slow; however once it takes hold, it spreads rapidly and can become a serious problem.
Due to the large leaves providing shade, as well as the density of the stems, American Skunk Cabbage out-competes smaller plants. This, in turn, can lead to damage to native species.
American Skunk Cabbage was extremely popular in gardens, due to this and its continued spread into the natural environment it is likely that the problem is likely to continue.
Find some information on this invasive species here.
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Skye & Lochalsh Rivers Trust, PO Box 6360, Isle of Skye, IV40 9AD