Lysichiton americanus – Ballyrobert Gardens

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Lysichiton americanus

Lysichiton americanus



About this cultivar:

Lysichiton americanus is quite common in the wild in these parts - it has naturalised (it is not invasive as some people have told me! It been here since 1901!).  But people still want to buy it! I guess it is easier than treking around the country side with a spade and a bag. The tropical looking glossy green foliage gives a unique look to the garden. In the spring before the foliage arises, the spectacular giant yellow arum like blooms can be seen...and smelled! (it is called skunk cabbage after all). Fortunately my sense of smell is poor - I just notice how cool it looks!

  • Position: Full sun, partial shade
  • Soil: Almost any soil, grows well in Ballyrobert, wet soil
  • Flowers: April, May, June
  • Other features: -
  • Hardiness: Fully hardy, grows well in Ballyrobert
  • Habit: Clump forming
  • Foliage: Semi evergreen
  • Height: 30 - 60 cm (1 - 2 ft)
  • Spread: 30 - 60 cm (1 - 2 ft)
  • Time to full growth: 2 to 5 years
  • Plant type: Herbaceous Perennial
  • Colour: Green, yellow
  • Goes well with: -

    About this genus:

    Lysichiton (lis-e-ki-ton) is a genus in the arum family (Araceae). These plants are known commonly as skunk cabbage or less often as swamp lantern. The genus has two species, one found in north-east Asia (camtschatcensis), the other in north-west America (americanus).

    Lysichiton has flowers which are typical of those of the family to which it belongs (the arum family or Araceae). The individual flowers are small and are tightly packed on a fleshy stem called a spadix which is surrounded by a white or yellow but otherwise leaf-like bract called a spathe. Plants die down to a vertical rhizome in winter.

    The genus Lysichiton was created by Heinrich Schott in 1857. It gets its name form the Greek lusis (loosing) and chiton ( a tunic) alluding to the wide open spathe. Schott used two variants of this name in his original publication: one with a Latinized ending, Lysichitum, and the other with a Greek ending, Lysichiton. In two later publications he used only the second variant. Only one species was assigned to the genus, Lysichiton camtschatcensis. In a paper published in 1932, Eric Hultén and Harold St. John separated American plants into a second species. 

    Along with other members of the subfamily Orontioideae, Lysichiton has been placed in a group of "proto-aroids", which appear to have evolved before the characteristic features of most aroids emerged - this plant has been around quite a while!

    The most obvious difference between the two species lies in the spathe, which is yellow with a green-suffused apex in Lysichiton americanus and white with at most a small amount of green at the apex in Lysichiton camtscatcensis. Both smell (skunk cabbage!) but camtschatcensis is the least smelly - in fact some say it almost has no smell at all.

    Both species have been used as ornamental garden plants. Lysichiton americanus was introduced into cultivation in the United Kingdom in 1901 and has escaped to become naturalized in marshy areas in Britain and Ireland. 

    Lysichiton will grow in part shade to full shade. Full-sun in these islands should be fine if it has enough moisture. This plant will only grow in wet areas and is ideally suited to boggy areas of the garden. We put ours in the woodland - perhaps complementing with Primula denticulata (see photo!). However, it is so exotic I think it could be grown as a specimen plant in formal areas!