Sunday, 8 October 2017

Sweet smell of decay …

Common Stinkhorn (Phallus impudicus)

P. impudicus is the commonest of the British stinkhorns, with a smell that is typically detected long before the fungus is actually found. However, detecting their pungent odour does not necessarily guarantee finding them - though following your nose will often reap rewards. They are saprobic and usually gregarious; so where you find one you will often find others.

The ‘eggs’ can be found at any time of year but they usually lie dormant until the summer months. Within the egg the fruitbody develops. In the above picture of a dissected egg the stipe material is in the central column and the olive-green gleba, which bears the spores, surrounds it. The developing raised honeycomb structure of the cap beneath the gleba is also visible. As soon as the cap emerges from the egg, insects, attracted by the putrid odour, are drawn to it and eat the gelatinous gleba exposing the raised honeycomb structure. Some of the gleba adheres to the legs of insects and this is how the spores get carried from one location to another.

To find specimens in pristine condition you ideally need to visit suitable locations at dawn, as nasal senses are heightened and before their devourers have discovered the phallus-shaped newborns that have erupted from their embryonic form during the night.


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. 446, fig. p. 447.
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. 302.
Phillips, R. (2006). Mushrooms. London: Pan Macmillan, p. 338, fig. a.
Sterry, P. and Hughes. B. (2009). Collins Complete Guide to British Mushrooms and Toadstools. London: HarperCollins, p. 244, fig. p. 245.

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