This mushroom (two of them) popped up in a client’s garden last week. It was quite startling to see it. I reached down to pluck it out of the ground with a bare hand and I got slimed. I happen to have a friend who is a mycologist. Here is what she had to say about this uninvited guest:
“Your friend is lucky to be visited by a noble member of the stinkhorn, phalloid fungi. Name is Phallus hadriani (Hadrian’s phallus). Another near species is Phallus impudicus, but the photo on the right shows the characteristic blush of pinkish-purple that differentiates it. The stinkhorn fungi are really remarkable – they mostly grow in tropical forests, where it’s dark and moist. They’ve developed a great method of spore dispersal – get the flies to do it for you. So, the slimey green mass (gleba) on the top, has a powerful, fetid stink which attracts flies. The flies get the stuff, full of spores on their legs and feet, fly away, and you know how fastidious flies are (always cleaning their legs), and thus disperse the spores well away from the parent.
“Tell your friend if she’s lucky, she might get another fruiting of the stinkhorn in another few months (when it’s warm) or next year. Not to worry, it won’t hurt her vegetables or soil or any resident dog or cat, not poisonous. In fact, in China, they cultivate the thing and eat it when it’s still in the egg stage (before the phallus rises). Assume it’s a developed taste.” Well, you won’t find it on my Thanksgiving menu!