This section is from the book "A Guide To The Poisonous Plants And Weed Seeds Of Canada And The Northern United States", by Robert Boyd Thomson, H. B. Sifton. Also available from Amazon: A guide to the poisonous plants and weed seeds of Canada and the northern United States.
Symplocarpus foetidus (L.) Nutt.
Other Common Names: Polecat-weed, Swamp Cabbage.
The plant derives its common name from its strong odour. It is acrid and poisonous, "causing vomiting and temporary blindness" (Pammel). It is, however, avoided by animals.
The tough, thick, pointed, leaf-like spathe, pale green with purple blotches and streaks, is laid down in the fall, and in the early spring expands, disclosing the small purple flowers which are borne on a fleshy axis, called the spadix. This spadix enlarges, and the scarlet fruits are embedded in it. The enormous, short petioled leaves, with heart-shaped base, and short, ridged stem appear in later spring.