Flora, Fun

Perfect landscape invaded by horribly stinky mushrooms, homeowner at wit’s end

Remember learning about onomatopoeia — words that sound like what they really mean, like splash or sizzle or meow? 

I don’t remember learning about a term for something smelling AND looking like what it’s called, but if there is one, stinkhorns would be the shining example. 

Ravenel’s stinkhorn, Phallus ravenelii

After new shrubs are planted, maybe mixed in with a few perennials, many landscapers opt to fill in the bare spaces with wood mulch to suppress weeds. 

That’s when these fun guys often show up, a few weeks later, after a good rain. Did I mention they are horribly stinky mushrooms?!?

Much of their texture is slimy, attracting flies and other bugs to spread the spores far and wide. Their appearance is, well, somewhere around a junior high level joke. 

These horrible no-good fungi literally pop up overnight, emerging from underground eggs THAT SOME PEOPLE ACTUALLY EAT

But just because someone wrote about eating them doesn’t mean you should give it a whirl. Mushrooms are notorious for mimicking each other, with one edible species looking like another one that might just kill you slowly over a couple of weeks. 

So unless you’re a professional, stick to sautéing mushrooms from your favorite grocery store. 

A stinkhorn’s smell is somewhere between rotting flesh and…rotting flesh.

Stinkhorn colors vary, from ivory to pink to bright red to what your brain tells you should be a dangerous orange, but in reality these mushrooms are benign, and help build up the soil. 

Wrinkly stinkhorn, Phallus rugulosus*

They are a plant’s best friend, breaking down the mulch into available nutrients. Which means you will need to buy more mulch. 

And then it’s déjà vu all over again with these fun guys. 

Since 2020 has been so…(ob)noxious…maybe we should nominate them for Plant of the Year?**

*That’s what’s coming up in iNaturalist, but it’s not research grade yet, so if it’s some other kind of lovely stinkhorn please correct me in the comments.
**I’m not really sure if these fungi are plants or aliens, but close enough.