The common name, skunk Cabbage, refers to the skunklike odor of the sap which draws flies as pollinators. "Lysichitum" combines the Greek words "lysis" meaning loosening, and "chiton" meaning tunic, in reference to the large spathe or large bract enclosing the flower cluster. The species name "americanum" means American.
The spike of the Skunk Cabbage consists of minute flowers surounded by a large yellow bract open on one side. The spike grows on a stout stalk in a cluster of giant, erect leaves.