Devil’s Fingers (Clathrus archeri)
The aptly named Devil’s Fingers, only rarely seen in southern Britain, is a striking species, which reached Europe from Australia or New Zealand at the start of World War I (1914). It was first recorded in Britain from Cornwall in 1946.
Like the Common Stinkhorn (Phallus impudicus) and the Dog Stinkhorn (Mutinus caninus), C. archeri emerges from a partly buried, gelatinous, egg-shaped, volva. As the ‘egg’ ruptures, the fruiting body rises and expands and is typically comprised of 4-6 starfish-like red arms, with a sticky, dark greenish-brown gleba [fleshy spore-bearing mass of certain fungi] spreading along the inner surfaces; designed to attract flies which are the agents of spore dispersal.
As global warming advances this exotic species may become more common in Britain. One thing is for sure, its appearance and rancid smell guarantee that it will not go unnoticed for long …
Buczacki, S., Shields, C. and Ovenden, D. (2012). Collins Fungi Guide: The most complete field guide to the mushrooms and toadstools of Britain & Ireland. London: HarperCollins, p. 448, fig. p. 449.
O’Reilly, P. (2016). Fascinated by Fungi – exploring the majesty and mystery, facts and fantasy of the quirkiest kingdom on earth. Llandysul: First Nature, p. 304.
Phillips, R. (2006). Mushrooms. London: Pan Macmillan, p. 339, fig. f.
Sterry, P. and Hughes. B. (2009). Collins Complete Guide to British Mushrooms and Toadstools. London: HarperCollins, p. 244, fig. p. 245.