Education Blog

WANTED: Skunk Cabbage & Chipmunks on the North Fork


Every nature enthusiast has a wish list of plants and animals that they want to see but for one reason or another has eluded them over the years.  For one of my colleagues, it’s the Eastern Banded Chiton.  For another, it’s the Evening Grosbeak.  For me, well I have two.

Skunk Cabbage is incredibly common on Long Island and I have seen it many times in both Western Suffolk and the South Fork.  However, I have never found it growing on the North Fork (east of Riverhead).  Being a native North Fork nature girl, I have walked the trails in search of this early Spring emergent but have had no luck.  Skunk Cabbage generally grows in wet areas such as streams, ponds, and wetland habitats.  The spathe is the first to appear in early February or March and resembles a purplish pod or shell.  Subsequently, as time passes its large


green leaves unfold.  If the leaves are crushed or bruised, a rather unattractive odor resembling rotting flesh is released, attracting its eager pollinators, flies and other insects, to the scene.

My other wish list organism is an equally common critter that scurries across the forest floors of Long Island.  Once again, I have observed plenty of Alvin, Simon, and Theodores (a.k.a. Eastern Chipmunks) on field trips with school students or while walking for personal enjoyment on the trails BUT once again, I have not seen one of these chubby-cheeked animals scampering about on the North Fork.  These rodents live in open deciduous forests and along the edges of woodlands.  It is also not uncommon to see them living in bushy areas near homes and buildings.  They feed on typical nuts, seeds, fruit, and mushrooms but will also sometimes consume insects, small mammals, and snails.  While cute as can be, they are absolutely elusive to me (on the North Fork)!

With this said, when the snow begins to melt and the signs of Spring begin to be seen, I am putting out an A.P.B. on these two organisms.  I am asking that anybody who sees or have seen Skunk Cabbage or the Eastern Chipmunk on the North Fork to please do me the favor of taking a photo and emailing it to me.  Or better yet, let

me know where you spotted it so that I can go there myself and then will be able to finally put a checkmark next to two of my common yet elusive “must see” organisms!