I’ve previously referred to the hesitancy on the part of my colleagues to call my western North American equivalent to today’s species “skunk cabbage”. Part of their rationale, I think, has to do with the fact that this species also bears that name, and, being eastern North American (at least in part), was undoubtedly the first of the two to receive it.
The early-blooming Symplocarpus foetidus is native to central-eastern North America and, possibly, northeast Asia. GRIN includes northeast Asia, while the Flora of North America treatment for Symplocarpus suggests the genus contains 1 or 2 species. I assume that if Symplocarpus were to be determined to contain two species that the split would be between the two disjunct groupings.
“Foetidus” means stinking (now that I think about it, we want from yesterday’s stinky toes to today’s stinky foetidus), and the species produces foul odours both from the flowers of its spadix and from the foliage when bruised or broken. In addition to the aromatic compounds it emits, the spadix is able to also (source: Flora of North America) “produce heat during flowering and can reach temperatures up to 25°C above ambient air temperature…These elevated temperatures probably play a role in pollination and in facilitating floral development at cold temperatures.”
For further reading on skunk cabbage, I recommend Craig Holdrege’s article for The Nature Institute: Symplocarpus foetidus.