8. Skunk Cabbage

One of the first signs of wetland plant life in early spring is the bizarre, sculptural inflorescence of Skunk Cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus), a title won by the pungent odor released after bruising the leaves. The red spathe housing the flower spike can even be seen poking out of a late snow, having forced its way through frozen ground using thermogenesis— the ability to create its own heat. This warm, sheltering flower produces a scent akin to rotting meat, attracting carrion flies and gnats as its primary pollinators. Spiders take up residence inside to prey on the visiting insects, and slugs, snails, and some moth larvae feed on the large leaves. As Skunk Cabbage grows, its contractile roots pull the plant deeper into the wetland soil, making them very challenging to pull or dig out. By late summer the plant withers and remains dormant until the following spring.