I had never seen skunk cabbage (or Symplocarpus foetidus) before today, and I was very interested by the sight. With its smooth, burgundy-and-white speckled tear-drop case, and its hidden green alien-like bulb, it reminded me of something out of Day of the Tentacle.
What was this strange plant? Growing so early in the season? Were all the little buds connected? What was that green alien-thing inside the purple shiny thing?
Turns out, it is a very common Earth-plant commonly known as Skunk Cabbage. It has some pretty spectacular properties (besides its appearance). It can produce heat and raise its temperature to 20 C above external temperature (allowing it to grow through frozen ground), and it produces a pungent odor (decaying flesh), that attracts its pollinators (flies, beetles etc).
The green alien-like thing is the flower, the burgundy case is a called a spathe. It is a modified leaf that holds the flower.
This webpage, from the Nature Institute, gives a really nice overview of this amazing plant.