Once it unfolds in the swampy forest, the Symplocarpus foetidus, the “skunk cabbage” is merely another bit of greenery, but when it first emerges, its purple and green coloring and striking shape make it a standout in the otherwise still-brown woods. The plant is native to eastern
I have not had the courage to try it myself, but as its name implies, the plant emits a pungent odor when its leaves are torn or bruised, this to attract flies and other carrion feeding insects which help it pollinate. It is also among a small group of plants exhibiting germogenesis: the skunk cabbage can produce heat ranging from 59 – 95° Fahrenheit (15-35° centigrade) above air temperature, allowing it to literally melt its way through snow. Some varieties appear to be poisonous, although several sites cite medicinal uses for the plant. For the most extensive description I’ve found, click here.