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FNA | Family List | FNA Vol. 22 | Araceae

2. Symplocarpus Salisbury ex Nuttall in W. P. C. Barton, Veg. Mater. Med. U.S. 1: 124. 1817.
[name conserved]

Skunk-cabbage, tabac-du-diable, chou puant [Greek symplokos, connected, and karpos, fruit, in reference to the infructescence]

Herbs, wetland or subterrestrial. Rhizomes vertical. Leaves appearing after flowers, several, erect, clustered, erect; petiole equal to or shorter than blade; blade green to dark green, simple, not peltate, oblong to ovate, base truncate or cordate, apex acute to obtuse; primary veins lateral, branching apically. Inflorescences: peduncle partly underground, much shorter than leaves, apex not swollen; spathe yellowish green to dark red-purple, usually spotted or striped with both, open only apically at maturity, enclosing spadix; spadix ovoid to globose. Flowers bisexual; perianth present. Fruits embedded in enlarged spongy spadix, dark purple-green to dark red-brown. Seeds 1, mucilage absent. x = 15.

Species 1 or 2 (1 in the flora): ne North America and ne Asia.

Symplocarpus is one of the earliest plants to flower in spring in northeastern North America, sometimes with spathes emerging through snow on the ground. Because inflorescences are developed during the previous summer, flowering can occur during any warmer than normal weather throughout winter. The spadices of both Asian and American plants produce heat during flowering and can reach temperatures up to 25°C above ambient air temperature (R. M. Knutson 1972; S. Uemura et al. 1993). These elevated temperatures probably play a role in pollination and in facilitating floral development at cold temperatures.


Barabé, D. 1982. Vascularisation de la fleur de Symplocarpus foetidus (Araceae). Canad. J. Bot. 60: 1536--1544. Shull, J. M. 1925. Spathyema foetida. Bot. Gaz. 79: 45--59. Williams, K. A. 1919. A botanical study of skunk cabbage, Symplocarpus foetidus. Torreya 19: 21--29.

Lower Taxon


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