That got me curious about another famously smelly wildflower, one I’m particularly fond of – skunk cabbage, a winter miracle flowing with antifreeze that burns and blooms through the snow. Sure enough, the Latin name is Symplocarpus foetidus, and Brandenburg says: “Plants are ill-scented, with somewhat skunklike odor.” In his journal entry for Oct. 16, 1856, Thoreau noted his discovery of “a rare and remarkable fungus”:
It may be divided into three parts, pileus, stem, and base,–or scrotum, for it is a perfect phallus…There was at first a very thin delicate white collar (or volva?) about the base of the stem above the scrotum. It was as offensive to the eye as to the scent, the cap rapidly melting and defiling what it touched with a fetid, olivaceous, semiliquid matter.