Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Ransacked by a Rafter of Turkeys

Last week on February 27th I noticed that almost all of the skunk cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus) in the fen had been ransacked by a rafter of wild turkeys. In all cases the tops of the cabbage flowers were simply ripped off or ripped open but all parts and pieces appeared to be present – the turkeys were not eating the skunk cabbage – so what were they up to?
It is well documented that the inside of a skunk cabbage flower is stinky and can be as much as 36 degrees warmer than the outside temperature, often melting the snow around it. The temperature difference creates a nice toasty sauna-like atmosphere for potential pollinators. I imagine a bunch of early emerging insects crowding in to the warm and stinky skunk cabbage saloon to get a bite to eat and stay dry on cold February and March nights not realizing that the local turkeys know right where they are. Tired of a winter diet of nuts and soft body insects the turkeys probably have a hankering for something warm and crunchy.

I can’t find anything online about turkey destroying skunk cabbage in search of insects, but I have to think that is what they are up to – I hope it is not just a bunch of young Jakes being teenagers.



  1. This is really interesting Nate. I never knew about the heat these plants make. I suspect you are right about the bugs being the enticement for the turkeys. Did you actually see the turkeys? Just wondering how you knew that's what did the damage...prints in the snow? Love your sketch!

  2. I love the story and the sketch. Fascinating!


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