“Ooooh that smell
Can’t you smell that smell
Ooooh that smell
The smell of death surrounds you”
Lynyrd Skynyrd – That Smell Lyrics
Last week, in my Blooming in My Yard post, I included a nasty little thing called a stinkhorn. A few days after taking the photo, the mushroom was gone, thank goodness. So it came as a surprise this morning, whilst sweeping my patio and throwing bits of dead plant debris into a nearby raised bed, that my nostrils were suddenly accosted by some offensive odor. At first I assumed I was catching an occasional drift from the nearby blooming pear trees (another notoriously nasty spring smell). However, as I continued to sweep and gag, I decided to poke around the nearby flower beds.
That’s when I spotted it, another stinkhorn! I must have hit it with a piece of plant debris and encouraged it to release its stench more quickly or perhaps just more concentrated toward my general direction.
It looked a wee bit different from the Clathrus columnatus I found last week growing out in the yard, but yet they are the same species. There is variation in how they appear. The link above will connect you to mushroomobserver.org. Good information!
Notice the brown mucous/wet mud-looking stuff inside. I have to admit, if you look at a close-up, I could have perhaps began this post by telling you I had cooked up a strawberry gelatin desert with chocolate pudding on the inside. Would you have said “oooh and ahhh” as you imagined each tasty bite? Ha ha ha , but I digress.
Now, as a scientist, I ask myself, what makes them appear in my yard or flower bed? Most plants like this that appear and disappear grow during periods of heavy rainfall or during a drought…environmental triggers that tell the plants “its time to roll”. Of course, most of us know that plants that stink to high hell do so to attract pollinators! For example, what kind of things are attracted to rotted meat? …Exactly.
There is a 2013 post from Dr. Dan Gill, LSU Ag Center Horticulture Specialist, in the NOLA.com online newspaper with the Times Picayune. The article is titled, “Too Much Rain Can Be Stressful”. He is their garden columnist and provides wonderful information. In it you will see another image of octopus or squid stinkhorn (Clathrus columnatus). That image looks a bit more like my image from last week. Dan adds some useful information regarding this species: Fortunately, stinkhorn fungi do not cause plant disease or injure ornamental plants. They simply grow as saprophytes, obtaining their nutrients by decaying dead plant material, such as wood mulch, buried wood debris or rotting dead tree roots. There are no chemical control measures. Fungicides available at nurseries will not eliminate this fungus. However, to reduce the likelihood of their reappearance, you can try to limit their food supply. Hardwood bark mulch can be removed and replaced with pine needles, or try to dig up and get rid of buried wood or large dead tree roots.”
For me, these mushrooms are an occasional nuisance, and certainly nothing to get excited about. If I were, say, hosting a party on the patio today, I would grab my shovel, remove the offender and throw it over in some remote corner of my yard. You might be able to play a “good” practical joke on someone with one of these too.
To get a bit more botanical, I will tell you these particular mushrooms I have shared are a member of the Clathraceae family, but stinkhorns in general can be of Clatheraceae or Phallaceae. Mushroomexpert.com goes into some great detail and mentions the battle of classification for this mushrooms, battles that sometimes exits in the plant taxonomic world. On their website there is a great page with images folks have submitted. I am sure if you think you have a stinkhorn, you will find a similar image on that album page. So check it out. Some of them are very beautiful and some are very naughty-looking (phallic).
Well, another hour has passed of me working on this blog post when I was supposed to be working on my raised beds and planting seed! I hope that someone will get something useful or entertaining out of this post about the stinkhorn.
One final note, on the Mississippi Gulf Coast or surrounding regions you might consider joining The Gulf States Mycological Society, if you have a good interest in all things shroomy! Well, maybe not ALL things shroomy. 🙂
Another great resource is Dr. Juan Luis Mata at the University of South Alabama. He typically speaks and leads a mushroom walk at The Crosby Arboretum in the late summer.
The Garden Maiden
All images and text copyright 2014 The Garden Maiden