The earliest flower you’ll find in the mid-Atlantic piedmont is skunk cabbage, a low-growing plant of wetlands. That reddish-brown thing in the lower right of the picture above is the inflorescence; actual flowers are within. Not long after flowering, the bright green leaves will appear and then unfurl. They can reach a length of 24 inches and a width of 12 inches.
Here’s what the new leaves look like, with a spent flower next to them. The frilly looking plant to the right is cleavers, by the way.
Skunk cabbage ranges from Quebec to North Carolina, and north-west to Minnesota. It’s endangered in Tennessee. Another related plant goes by the name skunk cabbage – Lysichiton americanus, also in the Araceae – but this one is found in the Pacific northwest.