A fetid herb, and the first plant to flower in the spring. The leaves are large, ovate, cordate, numerous in dense crowns, becoming in summer 1 to 3 feet long and 1 foot wide, but at flowering time scarcely beginning to unfold. Rootstock thick, descending, terminating in whorls of fleshy fibers. Spathe preceding the leaves, erect, 3 to 6 inches high, 1 to 3 inches in diameter, convolute, firm and fleshy, often one-fourth to one-half of an inch thick in the middle, pointed, completely inclosing the spadix, brown to greenish yellow, usually mottled, its short scape usually below the surface.

Spadix about 1 inch in diameter, entirely covered by the perfect flowers, greatly enlarged and sometimes 6 inches in diameter in fruit. The perianth of each flower consists of four hooded sepals.

A common plant of low, wet woods, meadows and swamps. When the spathes first appear, they possess little of the rank odor which characterizes them when older and which renders them objects of opprobrium. They appear almost before the last snowdrifts have disappeared and indicate the first awakening of plant life in spring.

The Arum family (Araceae), to which belong the Jack-in-the-pulpit, the Wild Calla, and the Skunk Cabbage, also contains several other native plants usually found in wet or damp places. The Green Water Arum (Peltandra virginica (Linnaeus) Kunth) with bright-green, hastate-sagittate leaves, often 1 to 2 feet long and 3 to 8 inches wide, possesses an inconspicuous green spathe, 4 to 8 inches long, with a strongly involute undulate margin. The Golden Club (Orontium aquaticum Linnaeus), found only in a few localities in the southern part of the State, possesses a cylindric, golden yellow spadix, from which the spathe falls at flowering time.

Memoir 15 N. Y. State Museum

Plate 5

Skunk Cabbage   Spathyema foetida

Skunk Cabbage - Spathyema foetida

The Sweet Flag, Calamus or Flagroot (Acorus calamus Linnaeus) (figure III) belonging also to this family is a common plant of wet meadows, with long, linear, flaglike leaves and the spathe a leaflike extension of the scape, the spadix spikelike, 2 to 3 inches long and about one-half of an inch in diameter, compactly covered with minute greenish yellow flowers.

Figure III Sweet Flag, Calamus or Flagroot (Acorus calamus Linnaeus)

Figure III Sweet Flag, Calamus or Flagroot (Acorus calamus Linnaeus)