One of the earliest spring "wildflowers," skunk cabbage can send up its hooded "spathe" flowerhead even while snow might linger on its wetland habit in late winter. The skunk cabbage actually produces its own heat, thawing the icy ground it must push through and possibly attracting early season pollinators.
Next to the spathe in this picture, large leaf buds push up out of the mud and soon will open out into broad green foliage (see below). Crush or bruise these leaves and you'll smell a strong, skunk-like or carrion-like odor!
Photos taken along the Bear Trail in the upper portion of Buttermilk Falls State Park in ithaca, NY.
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Notice the withering spathe in the shadow below the skunk cabbage's leaves.