Symplocarpus foetidus. The scientific name for skunk cabbage describes two of its features. The Latin term “symplocarpus” means “connected fruit” and refers to a knob-like structure that holds the flowers. Its skunk-like odor, described by “foetidus,” is apparent if we crush or break its tissue.

But I’m partial to an older name, “hermit of the bog,” which describes skunk cabbage right now, after it produces the conical spears that have popped up in local swamps and seeps. These entomb tissues that will become flowers in late February.

With feet planted in rotting leaves, and its conical buds proof against the snow, skunk cabbage, like its dormant neighbors, will ask no quarter of winter and receive none.

TRR photo by Ed Wesely
As the forest dies back, pointed skunk cabbage buds arise like counter currents. (Click for larger version)