Thursday, September 3, 2009


Nasty but fascinating. That's the stinkhorn. Jutting from mulch dyed an unnatural burnt sienna, these strange mushrooms provided a bizarre counterpoint to the mundane ornamental hostas growing in this flowerbed. There are three of the stinkhorns in our neck of the woods, and this one, I believe, is Phallus ravenelii, or Ravenel's Stinkhorn.

Perhaps you took notice of the genus name, Phallus. This thing is suggestive of certain anatomical parts that shall be danced around discreetly on this G-rated blog. But, another, crasser nickname for this 'shroom has to do with dogs and the latter half of the name of those birds that tap wood for a living.

The stalk of the stinkhorn is called a receptaculum, and the sticky malodorous spores are borne on that terminal cap, which looks a bit like melted chocolate. I could smell these from at least ten feet away; stinkhorns exude a foul, carrionlike odor to attract flies and other flesh-eating critters in the hopes that they'll spread the spores.

I would imagine your average, prim, sunhat-wearing trowel-wielding gardner would gasp in shock and horror to find such aberrations thrusting forth from the petunias. Their disgust would only be compounded by the olfactory asssault waged by glutinous spore masses putting off an odor only a Turkey Vulture would love.

But leave the stinkhorns be, say I. They're certainly an odd twist to otherwise boring mulch beds.


Lisa at Greenbow said...

I laughed at your description of me, I mean the trowel weilding gardener. I love finding these things in my garden. It just makes me think I have a good garden if all sorts of things grow here. The Stinkhorn that I have has an orangy/red base. I think it is much prettier than this plain one. You are so right about that smell. You can't deny there is one in your garden when they are there. phew.

Heather said...

Thanks for keeping it clean on Ohio Birds and Biodiversity, Jim! I've never encountered one of these before. Your pictures seem to be taken at night - is there a reason for that? Or was it maybe just a low light situation? Also, I would beg to differ with you comparing the cap to melted chocolate... that don't look like no kind of chocolate I'd want to eat!

Jack and Brenda said...

We had a few of these last year, but none this year. They sure do stink up the area! I have a photo of mine at

Lisa said...

Hey Jim! Interesting comments on the stinkhorn...I smelled, uh, observed them too.
Thanks for contributing to a very informative and fun conference at Shawnee.

Jim McCormac said...

Glad y'all like the stinkhorns - a strange bunch we are! Heather, I photographed them at night with flash, just because that's when we saw them. Glad you liked the conference Lisa!