The access to the fen is a road that cuts across one corner, through bog, woods, and cedar bush. I drive through it now and then, but in other years I've only spent time there later in the season, to see the lady's slipper orchids (pink (Cypripedium acaule) and yellow (Cypripedium calceolus)) and the pitcher plants (Sarracenia purpurea) that grow along the edge of the road.
The skunk cabbage gets its name from its skunky odour. I could smell it from the few flowers that were open--the leaves, when they come, will exude it too if bruised.
The outer shell is called the spathe, round ball inside the spadix, on which the flowers are found. Apparently the smell is attractive--the first bee I've seen this spring was buzzing in and out of the spathe pictured above. I use the term "bee" loosely. It was too fat to make me think "wasp," was not a honey or bumble bee, and after seeing some of Bev's pictures of fantastic mimics of Hymenoptera at Burning Silo I'm unwilling to say for sure that it wasn't a fly.
It might be hard to guess what this was without the context.
The Stoco Fen is a wonderful place, not just for the orchids and the skunk cabbage, but also for birds and mammals (and deer flies in summer). Sunday was pretty quiet, but I was treated to a lovely common raven conversation. This year I'll try to get back for more spring visits, and monitor developments: floral, faunal, and hydrologic.
A number of other bloggers have taken note of the arrival of the skunk cabbage: Five Wells, Endment, Ontario Wanderer, and Woodland Spring. Woodland Spring has a number of other skunk cabbage posts besides the one I've linked, and other spring flowers as well.