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Uses

Toxic parts

The plant is poisonous[1]. This report probably refers to the presence of calcium oxylate in all parts of the plant. This substance is toxic and if consumed makes the mouth and digestive tract feel as though hundreds of needles are being stuck into it. However, calcium oxylate is easily destroyed by thoroughly cooking or drying the plant[2].

Edible uses

Notes

Root - cooked[3][4][5][6][7]. The root must be thoroughly dried or cooked before being eaten, see notes above on toxicity. Traditionally the root was dried for at least 5 weeks or boiled for 3 days before being eaten[8]. Young leaves - cooked[9][6][7]. A peppery flavour[8]. The water should be changed at least once during the cooking process[4][8]. The leaves must be thoroughly cooked, see notes on toxicity above.

Leaves

Material uses

An infusion of the powdered root has been used as a wash to 'cure a strong smell under your arm'[10].

Unknown part

Medicinal uses(Warning!)

Skunk cabbage was much used by the native North American Indians primarily for its expectorant and antispasmodic properties to treat bronchitis and asthmatic conditions, a use that is still employed in modern herbalism[11]. The plant should be used with some caution, however, and preferably under professional supervision. Handling the fresh leaves can cause skin to blister whilst excessive doses of the root can bring on nausea and vomiting, headaches and dizziness[12][11].

The root is antispasmodic, diaphoretic, diuretic, emetic, expectorant and slightly narcotic[13][14][3][15][16][12]. The rootstock is harvested in late autumn or early spring and dried for later use[12]. It should not be stored for a long time because it loses its medicinal virtues[17]. The rootstock has been used internally in the treatment of respiratory and nervous disorders, including asthma, whooping cough, catarrh, bronchitis and hay fever[17][12]. It is occasionally used to treat epilepsy, headaches, vertigo and rheumatic problems[11]. Externally, it has been used as a poultice to draw splinters and thorns, to heal wounds and to treat headaches[11]. The root hairs or rootlets have been applied to dental cavities to treat toothache[17]. A tea made from the root hairs has been used externally to stop bleeding[17]. An inhalation of the crushed leaves has been used in the treatment of headaches[12].

The leaf bases have been applied as a wet dressing to bruises[17].

Ecology

Ecosystem niche/layer

Ecological Functions

Nothing listed.

Forage

Nothing listed.

Shelter

Nothing listed.

Propagation

Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame[18]. The seed should be stored in water if it is not sown immediately[12]. Stored seed can be sown in late winter or early spring. Stand the pot in 2cm of water to keep the compost wet. Germination should take place in the spring, prick out the seedlings into individual pots once they are large enough to handle and grow them on in wet soil in light shade in the greenhouse for at least their first winter. Plant them out in late spring once they are large enough. Division with great care whilst the plant is dormant[18].

Practical Plants is currently lacking information on propagation instructions of Symplocarpus foetidus. Help us fill in the blanks! Edit this page to add your knowledge.



Cultivation

Succeeds in sun or shade in a deep moist to wet lime-free soil that is rich in organic matter[18]. Grows well in a bog garden or along the wet banks of streams and ponds[19][12].

A very hardy plant, tolerating temperatures down to at least -35°c[12].

All parts of the pant, but especially the flowers, have a strong unpleasant aroma[13][20] that is said to be a combination of skunk, carrion and garlic[21]. The plant can raise the temperature of its inflorescence by 15 - 35°c above the ambient air temperature, thus protecting itself from frost and helping to attract pollinating insects[18][12].

Crops

Problems, pests & diseases

Associations & Interactions

There are no interactions listed for Symplocarpus foetidus. Do you know of an interaction that should be listed here? edit this page to add it.

Polycultures & Guilds

There are no polycultures listed which include Symplocarpus foetidus.

Descendants

Cultivars

Varieties

None listed.

Subspecies

None listed.

Full Data

This table shows all the data stored for this plant.

Taxonomy
Binomial name
Symplocarpus foetidus
Genus
Symplocarpus
Family
Araceae
Imported References
Material uses & Functions
Botanic
Propagation
Cultivation
Environment
Cultivation
Uses
Edible uses
None listed.
Material uses
None listed.
Medicinal uses
None listed.
Functions & Nature
Functions
Provides forage for
Provides shelter for
Environment
Hardiness Zone
4
Heat Zone
?
Water
high
Sun
full sun
Shade
light shade
Soil PH
Soil Texture
Soil Water Retention
Environmental Tolerances
    Ecosystems
    Native Climate Zones
    None listed.
    Adapted Climate Zones
    None listed.
    Native Geographical Range
    None listed.
    Native Environment
    None listed.
    Ecosystem Niche
    None listed.
    Root Zone Tendancy
    None listed.
    Life
    Deciduous or Evergreen
    ?
    Herbaceous or Woody
    ?
    Life Cycle
    Growth Rate
    ?
    Mature Size
    Fertility
    ?
    Pollinators
    Flower Colour
    ?
    Flower Type

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    References

    1. ? Stary. F. Poisonous Plants. Hamlyn ISBN 0-600-35666-3 (1983-00-00)
    2. ? Schofield. J. J. Discovering Wild Plants - Alaska, W. Canada and the Northwest. ()
    3. ? 3.03.13.23.3 Uphof. J. C. Th. Dictionary of Economic Plants. Weinheim (1959-00-00)
    4. ? 4.04.14.2 Harris. B. C. Eat the Weeds. Pivot Health (1973-00-00)
    5. ? 5.05.1 Usher. G. A Dictionary of Plants Used by Man. Constable ISBN 0094579202 (1974-00-00)
    6. ? 6.06.16.2 Coon. N. The Dictionary of Useful Plants. Rodale Press ISBN 0-87857-090-x (1975-00-00)
    7. ? 7.07.17.2 Yanovsky. E. Food Plants of the N. American Indians. Publication no. 237. U.S. Depf of Agriculture. ()
    8. ? 8.08.18.28.3 McPherson. A. and S. Wild Food Plants of Indiana. Indiana University Press ISBN 0-253-28925-4 (1977-00-00)
    9. ? 9.09.1 Tanaka. T. Tanaka's Cyclopaedia of Edible Plants of the World. Keigaku Publishing (1976-00-00)
    10. ? 10.010.1 Moerman. D. Native American Ethnobotany Timber Press. Oregon. ISBN 0-88192-453-9 (1998-00-00)
    11. ? 11.011.111.211.311.4 Chevallier. A. The Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants Dorling Kindersley. London ISBN 9-780751-303148 (1996-00-00)
    12. ? 12.012.112.212.312.412.512.612.712.812.9 Bown. D. Encyclopaedia of Herbs and their Uses. Dorling Kindersley, London. ISBN 0-7513-020-31 (1995-00-00)
    13. ? 13.013.113.2 Grieve. A Modern Herbal. Penguin ISBN 0-14-046-440-9 (1984-00-00)
    14. ? 14.014.1 Lust. J. The Herb Book. Bantam books ISBN 0-553-23827-2 (1983-00-00)
    15. ? 15.015.1 Mills. S. Y. The Dictionary of Modern Herbalism. ()
    16. ? 16.016.1 Foster. S. & Duke. J. A. A Field Guide to Medicinal Plants. Eastern and Central N. America. Houghton Mifflin Co. ISBN 0395467225 (1990-00-00)
    17. ? 17.017.117.217.317.417.5 Weiner. M. A. Earth Medicine, Earth Food. Ballantine Books ISBN 0-449-90589-6 (1980-00-00)
    18. ? 18.018.118.218.318.4 Huxley. A. The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992. MacMillan Press ISBN 0-333-47494-5 (1992-00-00)
    19. ? F. Chittendon. RHS Dictionary of Plants plus Supplement. 1956 Oxford University Press (1951-00-00)
    20. ? Phillips. R. & Rix. M. Perennials Volumes 1 and 2. Pan Books ISBN 0-330-30936-9 (1991-00-00)
    21. ? Genders. R. Scented Flora of the World. Robert Hale. London. ISBN 0-7090-5440-8 (1994-00-00)
    22. ? Fernald. M. L. Gray's Manual of Botany. American Book Co. (1950-00-00)

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