Thursday, April 16, 2009

False Hellebore

The hillside seeps are now dotted with skunk cabbages, their large heart-shaped cabbage-like leaves smell skunky when crushed.

The skunk cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus), a member of the Arum family, has a flower cluster called a spadix that is tucked inside a green-mottled or dark purple hood known as a spathe.

Another plant shares the seep with the skunk cabbage. False hellebore (Veratrum viride) may at first glance be mistaken as another skunk cabbage. A closer look reveals a light green plant, with strongly ribbed leaves, evident even as it first emerges.

False hellebore is in the lily family, is odorless, and is highly toxic to livestock and humans. The large leaves clasp the stem. The greenish-yellow flower cluster emerges on a tall stalk above the leaves.

In the photo below see if you can distinguish the skunk cabbage from the false hellebore.


  1. We have a lot of the False Hellebore on our ranch in Southern Oregon. While I have been removing the plants with some of my ranch hands, we have all come down with similar symptoms: headaches, labored breathing, itchy skin, and nausea. Is there any way to eliminate these plants without getting these symptoms?

  2. I have not tried to remove it myself since it grows in ravines that we have left alone. You may have checked the same sources online but I came across the following links. I am usually not a fan of herbicides but given past human disturbance this may be the only option, if fencing out areas is not an option. As far as I can tell there is no way to avoid the toxic symptoms if you handle it by hand.

    Check out:


  3. Thank you very much for your effort in answering my question.