This Illinois native species is highly unusual in many aspects from the inflorescence, the growing season, the look, and certainly the smell. Eastern Skunk Cabbage is an herbaceous perennial that grows in a rosette clump and features large bright foliage reminiscent of Jurassic Park. The plant is generally found in wet organic soils nearby flowing water. It is associated with fens and hillside seeps where calcareous ground water emerges and begins a stream.
The common name of “Skunk Cabbage” was given for more reason than one. For starters, the unique inflorescence is not dissimilar to the corpse flowers often featured in botanic gardens around the country as the plant draws in flies to its flower by emitting an odor of rotting meat. Even more bizarre is that skunk cabbage is the first spring wildflower to bloom. The plant blooms so early, in fact, that it generates its own heat because of rapid cellular growth to melt surrounding snow, thus attracting more potential pollinators. Not only does the flower smell—bruising the leaves of the plant can also emit an odor much like that of a skunk!