And you thought allergies were the worst part about spring in New York...

While out on a jog on the Rail Trail in Ulster County last week, I noticed the scenery finally beginning to change. That stinging neon green of blooming flowers has started to populate. This means two things.

The good news is warmer, longer days are ahead. The bad news is I won't be able to breathe in or out of my nose for the next couple of weeks. At least, I thought this was bad news...

Name That Plant

Another thing I noticed on my Rail Trail jog was a lingering, very faint stench that I assumed was either a skunk or some funky marijuana followed by all of these new leafy plants popping up on the ground.

They look like this:

Nature At Your Door Frank Taylor Via YouTube
Nature At Your Door Frank Taylor Via YouTube

My first thought was, "Great! Deer food." But I also quickly noticed not a single one of these leafy greens (and there were a TON) had any bites missing. I always see families of deer on the Rail Trail so it just seemed odd they wouldn't be feasting on all this greenery.

Low and Behold, The Skunk Cabbage

After looking into it, I see why deers steer clear of this plant.

These aren't any old clusters of roughage. These greens are known as "skunk cabbages" and they bloom into some pretty funky-smelling plants. And if you thought skunk cabbage was a bad nickname, the plant also goes by swamp cabbage and clumpfoot cabbage but is scientifically known as symplocarpus foetidus.

According to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, skunk cabbage has calcium oxalate crystals inside that make your mouth burn when you chew it. But it's the wretched stench that is believed to keep animals unappetized.

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When they bloom, skunk cabbages have been described as smelling like "putrid meat" according to Matthaei Botanical Gardens.

This is fitting considering the New York DEC describes one part of the lifecycle as resembling "raw meat."

Nature At Your Door Frank Taylor Via YouTube
Nature At Your Door Frank Taylor Via YouTube

Skunk cabbages are actually pretty fascinating because they create their own heat. In late winter, they're usually one of the first plants you'll see popping up because the heat they create is warm enough to melt snow off of them.

SEE ALSO: Is This Invasive Species Really As Bad As Some Say in New York? 

Now that spring has sprung and skunk cabbages are entering their leafy green phase, you can expect to get some pretty rough whiffs from these bad boys.

Is Skunk Cabbage Harmful to Pets?

On the off chance that your pet is interested in snacking on skunk-smelling snacks, be sure to discourage them from taking a bite off of these, because their mouths will sting. The ASPCA considers skunk cabbage to be toxic to dogs, cats, and horses because of the oral irritation those calcium oxalate crystals cause. Ingestion of skunk cabbage can also lead to pets having difficulty swallowing or even vomiting.

Check out some of New York's other absolute worst plants here:

New York State's Invasive Plants To Be On The Lookout For

These seven invasive plants have become a nuisance to the wildlife and people living in New York State. Learn more about them and how to remove them at the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation here.

The 10 Most Invasive Animals & Insects in New York State

There's nothing worse than an unwanted guest.

Gallery Credit: Will Phillips


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