Madder, purple, yellow and green.
Mostly north, sparingly west and south.
Flowers: inconspicuous; perfect; arranged upon an oval fleshy spadix that is enveloped by a spathe. Spathe: shell-shaped, veined with purple. Fruit: curious looking; the seeds form under the epidermis of the spadix, and drop later into the ground, like little bulbs. Leaves: one to three feet long; ovate; veined; appearing later than the flowers, from a short rootstock.
"Foremost to deck the sun-warmed sod, The Arum shows his speckled coil."
Dame Nature has truly a warm heart, and when she deprives us of one thing she usually bestows another. In her scheme of wisdom she certainly saw fit to deprive the skunk cabbage of fragrance; and to such an extent that it has been doomed to bear a rather unpoetical name. But it is a brave, powerful plant, which pushes itself forward without fear of rebuff from the frosts of February, or the biting March winds. Grim winter has but to relax his hold of the season for a single day, or two, and the first folded buds of the skunk cabbage are among us; gladdening those that are weary of seeing the earth dried and pale, by announcing the nearness of spring. They are impetuous and sometimes hardly wait long enough to give their cheery message, as it is not unusual to find that they have been caught by Jack Frost. As soon as a thaw then sets in they quickly turn black and decay.
It is still a mooted question whether or not this plant is self-fertilized. The arums are thought to be cross-fertilized by the wind; as their pollen is dry and powdery, and their spathes are not so highly coloured as to attract the attention of insects. But the spathe of this plant has colour; and is so enwrapped about the flowers as to protect them from the wind. The pistil also matures long before the stamens. These facts would favour the theory of its being visited by insects. On the other hand, we have to remember that insects have not the indomitable courage of the skunk cabbage, and do not venture out at so early a season of the year. Flies abound the first warm days of spring, so perhaps they, or others of which we know nothing, are their secret embassadors.
Children - and at an early age it may be that the nostrils are not fully developed - are particularly fond of searching for this plant and kicking it over, when its odour becomes much more intensified.