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.