Corn husks are the the outer sheath that surrounds each ear of corn. The dried husks are used as wrappers for tamales but they are used fresh as well for fresh corn tamales referred to as uchepos. The use of corn husks as a food wrapper dates back to the Aztecs.
Need an alternative for dried corn husks? Providing you are making tamales and you don't have corn husks then here are some wrappers you can use as a substitute:
Dried corn husks are the most commonly used tamal wrapper. Most of the corn husks found in the U.S. are smaller than the husks sold in Mexico. About seven years ago a new "style" husk was introduced to the U.S. market. This style is called "enconchada" which refers to the "conch shell shape" of the stacked husks.
The enconchada husks are of a higher quality and come in at least three sizes varying from 7" - 9". They are even available packed in water for immediate use. Normally the husks must be weighted down in water and soaked for at least 10 minutes to make them pliable and ready for use.