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Lysichiton americanus

Lysichiton americanus

This scan is from a photograph taken in 1912 by John Davidson, part of the collection of 5000+ scans of photographs and documents that will soon be available online via the project I've been diligently working on.

Interestingly, this lantern slide is labelled as Lysichiton camtschatcensis. Without the benefit of a colour slide and a little bit of botanical history, one might (at first) make the erroneous conclusion that this is a cultivated planting in Vancouver of the east Asian Lysichiton camtschatcense. That doesn't make too much sense, though – it's doubtful that anyone would grow a mass planting of that species in the Vancouver of 1912. With a little digging (very little, as it turns out), I discovered the answer via Wikipedia: for some time, the two species were considered one.

In terms of outward appearance, Lysichiton americanus has a bright yellow or greenish-yellow spathe while the spathe of Lysichiton camtschatcense is white, which, without additional evidence, is often not enough of a difference to consider dividing one species into two. More differences between the east Asian and North American species were eventually noted: for example, Lysichiton camtschatcense has much smaller anthers and lengthy protruding stamens. This accumulated evidence became enough to recognize two distinct species.

However, Lysichiton americanus wasn't published as a name for a distinct species until 1931, nineteen years after today's photograph (and resolving the mystery of the slide label). As to whether this particular patch of swamp lantern (or skunk cabbage) exists today, perhaps some of the local readers who know Stanley Park will chime in with the answer.

For a botanical description of this species, read the Flora of North America entry on Lysichiton americanus.

13 Comments

I don't know the species, but I know I have a variety of some type of skunk cabbage "weed" that grows rampant along the edge of the woods out back.

I can believe Sasquatch would live in such an environment as what's pictured here.

I'm not sure when someone last claimed to see a Sasquatch in Stanley Park. Sasquatch Provincial Park, on the other hand...

A rather dramatic looking photograph...

I just checked the wildlife listing for Sasquatch Provincial Park and found no mention of Sasquatch. There is Swimmer's Itch, though, which is scary in its own way.

I'm tempted to post a new version of the photo with a pasted Quatchi the Sasquatch, but I suspect that would be a legal no-no.

I've received a few emails about the project I've been working on, so I've posted the brochure for the site on the garden's forums.

here in florida we have swamp cabbage
yes they still eat it

i hope i may visit the new site
when its up and running

1916 and the world one war was about
to engulf the nations so much
history would have impacted the gardens
and the people who ran them

I hope we see more of these photos. It will be fascinating to compare them to the present, 100 years later.

Lysichiton americanus - Z6 - RHS Index of Garden Plants, Griffiths
Lysichiton americanus - Z7-9 - A-Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants, Brickell, Cole, Zuk
Lysichiton, lis-e-ki-ton; from Gr. lusis, loosing, or freeing from, and chiton, a tunic, alluding to the wide-open spathe. americanus, a-mer-ik-a-nus, of America. Plant Names Simplified, Johnson and Smith

Wow, interesting project, Daniel! I suspect it's either going well or almost finished, given the humor about Sasquatch. (:

bev

Yes, the end is in sight. I'm now catching up on the backlog of many other things while the project takes a pause.

This is so good to see. I am thinking the Photo is from a glass plate. I worked as a Photographer for the University of Massachusetts in the mid to late 1970's. That was my first profesion. I was able to print from glass plates
very early pictures of the Durfee Conservatory in the late 1800's. I would love to see more of these black and white pictures.
Thank you,
Margaret-Rae

I always thought that it be very interesting, to find the locations where, many of "Botany John's" photos were taken, and repeat the exercise. Especially in Garibaldi Park

I believe this patch or a reduced size of it still exists in the park at the north east side of beaver lake. It has been awhile since I've been there but beaver lake came to mind immediately when seeing the photo. There is also skunk cabbage in camosun bog on the border or in UBC endowment lands that residents have worked hard to preserve. I love old Vancouver.

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