Description: Skunk cabbage is a flowering perennial plant that is one of the first plants to emerge in the spring. The flowers appear before the leaves and are characterized by a mottled maroon hood-like bract called a spathe, which surrounds a knob-like structure called a spadix. The spadix is actually a fleshy spike of many, petal-less flowers. As the flowers mature, the spathe opens more to allow pollinators such as flies and carrion beetles to enter and pollinate the flowers.
Predation: Most animals avoid skunk cabbage because it causes a burning sensation when eaten, but bears will eat young plants in the spring. American Indians have used it as a medicinal treatment for coughs and headaches. For a time in the 1800s it was sold as the drug dracontium to treat a variety of ailments.