The buttermilk hood and green spathe of the skunk cabbage Lysichiton x hortensis backlit in the morning sun caught my eye as I walked along the stream today. I first saw this plant on the cover of Beth Chatto's Damp Garden and ordered mine from Beth's nursery soon afterwards. Over time it has made a substantial plant that thrusts up its richly textured, but none-too-subtle flowers (like Lords-and-Ladies on steroids, or possibly viagra) in April. These are followed by mid-green leaves that gradually expand into enormous great paddles a metre or more in length, forming the perfect architectual foil to other wetland plants such as the native Yellow Flag Iris Iris pseudacorus and Hemlock Water-dropwort Oenanthe crocata, though the latter is highly poisonous and should be used with caution.
Lysichiton x hortensis is a sterile hybrid between the better known bright-yellow-flowered American Skunk Cabbage L. americanus and its white-flowered Asian cousin L. camtschatsensis. Since there is no seed, L. x hortensis can be planted without the risk of it becoming invasive, either within the confines of the garden, or in the wider environment – something that has become a major problem with American Skunk Cabbage in some UK wetlands (see here for example).