It was found in Eastern Pennsylvania (in the United States) in a deeply wooded area.

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Those are the fruit clusters of a common "wildflower" that often grow in wet areas, called Eastern Skunk Cabbage or Symplocarpus foetidus. Initially (early Spring), it's not bad looking (and some species - such as the western skunk flower - are even pretty):

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But after a while, the spathe (sheath) dries up while the seeds grow in the spadix (the fleshy thing in the middle with the little 'flowers') grow, leaving the swollen spadix (fruit):

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The tip off, though, is the characteristic new growth, very skunk-cabbagey, so I would guess those fruits are from the previous year (?).

  • Eastern skunk cabbage is notable for its ability to generate temperatures of up to 15–35 °C (27–63 °F) above air temperature by cyanide resistant cellular respiration in order to melt its way through frozen ground, placing it among a small group of plants exhibiting thermogenesis.

This allows it to flower through melted ice or snow. Also:

  • It's a member of the arum family.
  • It depends for fertilization on bugs that like carrion.
  • It's virtually impossible to dig up a well-established plant because the roots pull the plant down deeper into the soil every year (it has contractile roots).
  • It was widely used medicinally.

Skunk Cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus)

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  • $\begingroup$ Some types can also be mistaken by the uninitiated for rhubarb, which it definitely is not :) $\endgroup$ – MattDMo Sep 10 '15 at 20:41
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    $\begingroup$ @MattDMo - Eeeeewww! The smell should be a tip off, no? I mean, they produce chemicals like "putrescine" and "cadaverine". I'll take rhubarb! (Now that I think about it, I can see a tiny resemblance maybe.) $\endgroup$ – anongoodnurse Sep 11 '15 at 0:58
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    $\begingroup$ it was a long time ago; I was young and innocent :) I'm not even sure if it was "true" skunk cabbage, but that's what someone else called it after I tried nibbling on a leaf stem and almost threw up. This was in central Pennsylvania, not far from where the OP found the specimens in the question. $\endgroup$ – MattDMo Sep 11 '15 at 1:04
  • $\begingroup$ @anongoodnurse Putrescine and cadaverine to attract flies? I have also noticed that flies get attracted to spermine/spermidine. I just left a solution (with some sugar) in an open bottle to see and in some days it had maggots. Tried this twice (not enough replicates :P). $\endgroup$ – WYSIWYG Sep 11 '15 at 6:20

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