Skunk Cabbage

Skunk cabbage

We discovered a break in the rain this week and drove to the coast to explore the greenery and found the skunk cabbage in full regalia.

You first catch a sniff of mild skunk in the wind and then see, low to the ground, bright yellow flowers rising from the muck.

Hard to avoid comparisons with pudenda with the curvy covering that coddles the studded lingam.

I wondered how the Native tribes used the plant, named by settlers as Lysichiton americanus. If eaten raw, the plants sting your mouth.

The Yurok reportedly used the leaves to wrap sturgeon eggs while the Salish employed the leaves as drinking cups. According to one source the Quileute flavored camas roots with the leaves.

The plant may have been used for medicine, too: a salve for arthritis, fevers, cuts and headaches, but not without steaming it first or mashing the plant with other herbs for a poultice.

How do I know? I found online at the University of Michigan-Dearborn a website devoted to Native American ethnobotany, labelled as a “Database of Foods, Drugs, Dyes and Fibers of Native American Peoples, Derived from Plants.”

You can look up a plant and discover books, articles, dissertations and theses that describe plants: a very useful resource.

For more information see:


About Cynthia Coleman Emery

Professor and researcher at Portland State University who studies science communication, particularly issues that impact American Indians. Dr. Coleman is an enrolled citizen of the Osage Nation.
This entry was posted in health, Native Science and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Skunk Cabbage

  1. Russ L says:

    Great resource! Thanks for mentioning it!


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