common stinkhorn

Phallus impudicus, or common stinkhorn (right)

…is recognizable by its foul odor and its phallic shape when mature. It is a common mushroom in Europe and western North America, where it occurs in habitats rich in wood debris such as forests and mulched gardens. The fruiting body is tall and white with a slimy, dark olive coloured conical head.This material contains the spores. It is transported by insects which are attracted by the odor. Despite its foul smell, it is not poisonous. It matures in an egg-like capsule known as a “witch’s egg”. These eggs are edible and taste great when sliced and fried with a little butter, salt, and pepper.


Found this crazy mushroom at work today! It’s a Phallus Impudicus, aka Common Stinkhorn mushroom. I’ve got a cold, so I couldn’t smell the foulness, sadly. However, rushing home to identify it after work, I’m quite fascinated. They spread their spores by attracting flies with their carrion-esque smell, who in turn propagate them. Apparently, the immature white egg in the middle is called a receptaculum and can be eaten raw (tasting a bit like a radish). In medieval times it was used as a love potion. Hmmmmm, ladies???


The Common Stinkhorn… and Nutella?

I’ll get to the Nutella in a minute..

My wife and I were leaving today and saw two of our neighbors staring at mushrooms in their front lawn. I stopped and asked them if the mushrooms were morels, as they looked like from a distance. They picked one and brought it over. At first glance, I thought, Half-Free Morels perhaps. Then I saw the glistening stinking slime, and the spongy tubular (not unlike a pool noodle toy) stalk. YES! a stinkhorn! Phallus impudicus or from the Latin “shameless penis”. I mentioned to my neighbors that in the young egg stage they are considered edible in some Asian cultures, but as they are older they may do better by eating a piece of soggy cardboard.

What a curiosity. The smell was sulfurous, and rotten, but in a fake chemical way. I keep various stinkflowers and corpse arums that smell very similar. Such convergence in completely unrelated plants and fungi. So it made me think; ’Carcasses smell because they are rotten, for the sake of being rotten flesh, flies inconsequential to its rotting as they are scavengers really, whereas stinking plants and fungi evolved to attract flies for the sake of pollination or spore dispersal, and the best ones were successful to reproduce with the most attractive smell or taste; an addictive substance; crack cocaine to flies if you will.’ Flies coated this thing, even though there was roadkill nearby. It gave me insight into what flies truly desire in a meal. Humans - or at least myself - love Nutella. Nutella does not exist in nature. Like flies to a stinkhorn looking for cheap nurishment, it exists solely for our taste buds.

Man, I love Nutella.

(Nutella photo from Wikipedia)