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Cabbage Skunk weed Lysichitum americanum in wet woodlands: biology; invasiveness and control in the UK

| July 21, 2015

The invasive Cabbage Skunk weed, Lysichitum americanum, is native to swamps and along streams in woodlands in the north-west of North America. It is named due to its distinctive “skunky” odour that it emits when it blooms and attracts its pollinators – scavenging flies and beetles.

The name is also used for the eastern skunk cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus), another species in the arum family found in eastern North America. The two species are frequently confused and some of S. foetidus’ characteristics are often misattributed to L. americanum. S. foetidus is renowned for its thermogenesis i.e. it is able to produce heat within its cells in order to melt snow and ice and thus facilitate its emergence in spring. L. americanum does not have this capacity for thermogenesis.

The two species can be easily distinguished by the different colours of the spathe: yellow for L. americanum and dark crimson for S. foetidus. In early spring, L. americanum flowers are produced in a spadix within an attractive cadmium yellow spathe, 30-40cm tall, sometimes referred to as ‘Swamp lanterns’ that provide a very colourful scene, which is why they are pop ular in some gardens…..

This is an extract of the full article published in International Pest Control – May/June 2015 issue.

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Authors: Graham Matthews* and Andrea Berardi**
*IPARC, Imperial College, Silwood Park, Ascot, SL5 7PY.
** Open University, Royal Holloway College

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Category: Forestry

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