Skip to main content

Devil's Dipstick

While on a recent excursion through some Hocking County forests, our crew stumbled onto one of the stranger fungi to be found: a stinkhorn. This particular beauty is sometimes known as the Devil's dipstick. More formally it is Mutinus elegans, a member of the family Phallaceae. A rather suggestive name, the latter, but even in this fading specimen it isn't hard to see how the family got its name.

Mutinus elegans has the distinction of being - probably - the first species of fungi named in the New World. A Brit, John Banister, described it in 1679 and the missionary Banister may have been suitably horrified at what this oddity seems to suggest. However, history does not record his reaction to the bizarre fungus.

As we approached the stinkhorn, I noticed a scurrying movement in the shadows below. A bit of rustling around and we spooked out an American carrion beetle, Necrophila americana. The gelatinous spores of stinkhorns smell foul, like overripe meat, and the malodorous scent attracts insects that make their livelihood by exploiting dead animals. I'm sure if one were to prostrate themselves near some stinkhorns and quietly watch, there would be all manner of ghoulish visitors stopping by.


Jack and Brenda said…
We had quite a few Stinkhorns in a section of our flowerbeds last summer, but none this summer. Not that I'm complaining, as ounce for ounce, there aren't many things that sting worse than these little things.

Popular posts from this blog

The Pinching Beetle, a rather brutish looking bug

The world is awash in beetles, and they come in all shapes and sizes. Few of them can match the intimidation factor of a Pinching Beetle, Lucanus capreolus, though. Those formidable looking mandibles look like they could slice off a finger.

Today was one of those coolly diverse days. I started off down in Fayette County, visiting the farm of a friend. He has restored about 25 acres of wetlands, and the response by the animal community has been nothing short of phenomenal. Blizzards of dragonflies of many species, amphibians galore, and nesting Blue-winged Teal, Pied-billed Grebe, and Sora. Among MANY other things. And all in a short two years. Add water and they will come.

Then, working my way home, I ducked into a Madison County cemetery that has a thriving population of Thirteen-lined Ground Squirrels, and shot images of our native prairie dog. Then, I stopped at a spot along Little Darby Creek, waded on in, and procured some pretty nice shots of various stream bluets and dancers. …

Calliope Hummingbird in central Ohio!

A hatch-year male Calliope Hummingbird strikes a pose. Small but tough, the hummingbird was feeding actively yesterday in 39 F temperatures. It frequents feeders and gardens at a home in Delaware County, Ohio, about a half-hour north of Columbus.

Fortunately, the wayward hummer appeared at the home of Tania and Corey Perry. Tania is a birder, and knew right away that the hummingbird was something special. For a while, the identification was up in the air, which isn't surprising. The Calliope Hummingbird used to be placed in its own genus, Stellula, but has recently been submerged into the genus Selasphorus, which includes Allen's, Broad-tailed, and Rufous hummingbirds. The latter two, especially, are quite similar to the Calliope in subadult plumage. Rufous is the default "vagrant" hummingbird here, with dozens of records and birds turning up annually. There is but one Ohio record of Allen's Hummingbird, from late fall/early winter 2009. Ditto the Calliope Hummi…

Ballooning spiders

Fear not, ye arachnophobes. The subject of this entry is indeed about spiders, but the star of the show is about as cute as a spider can get. And you'll want to know what we're about to learn...

On my recent West Virginia foray, we were strolling down a seldom-used lane, when a bright yellow object caught our eye. It was a goldenrod crab spider, Misumena vatia, on top of a post! Not only that, she - it is a girl - was acting extraordinarily goofy. The spider would stilt up as high as she could go on her legs, weave back and forth, jig side to side, and otherwise engage in what appeared to be spider break-dancing.

Click the pic for expansion, and you can see two columns of silk issuing from her spinnerets. This is an important point, as we set about determining what this non-web-making spider is doing.

So fixated was our spider on her task that she even rejected what would seem to me to be a perfectly scrumptious meal. This little caterpillar climbed rapidly up the post and dire…