Garden Scents of Smell

Clathrus columnatus has columns. Must be where the species name comes from.

Clathrus columnatus has columns. Must be where the species name comes from.

While walking around the other day, my nose took to the air and I felt a little like my English Setter, a scent hound if ever I saw one.  My nose, however, wasn’t intent on a cute rabbit or bird, the smell made me gag and I was certain that there was a dead “something” close to my feet. I look over toward the pile of chipped mulch dropped off a year or more ago from the electric company pruners.

This is what attracted my nose

This is what attracted my nose

AHHHHH!  There…over there…that pretty orange glow next to the fire ant mound. Fungi!…In this case, a Stinkhorn Mushroom (Clathrus columnatus).

The start of new growth. According to MushroomExpert.com if you step on it at this stage it will stop growing and thus, won't stink

An “egg” starts new growth. According to MushroomExpert.com if you step on it at the egg stage it will break the skin, won’t mature and thus, won’t stink. This one seems to just be coming out of the egg stage

Like its common name, the Stinkhorn Mushroom stinks to high heaven and there is no denying that it is somewhere in the area. It is so pretty, but it smells like a dead body. Flies are drawn to this and share a sort of mutualistic relationship, as flies will spread the spores. Mushrooms that are saprobes survive by decomposing dead or decaying organic material. Let’s just say that my Clathrus has a steady source of survival provisions, given my procrastination at spreading the mulch.  Seems like January is the time of year for this particular Fungus to appear.  I found a photo from another January which shows this Wild Mushroom in a different area of my garden.

Fly and fungus symbiosis. Fly spreads the fungus spores, but does the fly gain any benefit?

Fly and fungus symbiosis. Fly spreads the fungus spores, but does the fly gain any benefit?

Fungi play many roles in a beautiful wildlife garden. The Stinkhorn mushroom is handy in breaking down rotted wood and returning the nutrients to the soil, major benefits…if you can stand the smell!  Some other fungi rely on living materials.  Fellow NPWG blogger Beatriz Moisset describes in detail the concept of root partners (mycorrhiza) which has opened my eyes.  As a kid I was always fascinated by the huge mushrooms that grew in the yard of our summer bungalow, I just never knew the important implications of having these garden workhorses around.

Two days of growth. It has a honeycomb thing going on in there

Two days of growth. It has a honeycomb thing going on in there

There are many people that focus and collect fungi. I’m amazed at the shear numbers of varieties and species and I’m hoping to learn a bit about the various species and what they do.  All I can say is that you gotta love mushroom groupies.  They even have a Stinkhorn Hall of Fame.

After a day or two at "adulthood", the bright color starts to fade

After a day or two at “adulthood”, the bright color starts to fade

Author note:  today is Florida Arbor Day.  Time to head on over to your local native plant nursery to buy and plant a tree to support our environment.  It’s a giveback with a lasting benefit.

© 2013, Loret T. Setters. All rights reserved. This article is the property of BeautifulWildlifeGarden.com We have received many requests to reprint our work. Our policy is that you are free to use a short excerpt which must give proper credit to the author, and must include a link back to the original post on our site. Please use the contact form above if you have any questions.

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Comments

  1. says

    Peeeuuu … I can almost smell that stinker. Good thing we don’t have “smell-o-rama” this time. Fascinating. I love mushrooms. I love to find them. I love to see the puff balls puff. I have a large collection of photos of fungi. I love to eat mushrooms, too, but never from the wild as I don’t trust my identification skills but thank you so much for referencing that wonderful, educational mushroom site. I want to make a spore print!
    Kathy Sturr of The Violet Fern recently posted..What’s Blooming: Meltdown

    • says

      HA “smell-o-rama” :)

      I get puff balls I spent some time this past summer photographing them and reading up a little. It is amazing the transformation of this particular genus to one that the spores will “puff”. I particularly like that they resemble golf balls (former golfer here). They are apparently edible and quite tastey when young. I may try them one of these days with a grilled steak.

      I tried a spore print when I submitted a photo for id to a mushroom expert and he said it was necessary to get a firm id. I must be “spore print dense” cause I couldn’t figure out what I had. Just looked like a mess on a piece of paper to me. :)
      Loret recently posted..One for the Bugguide record books!

    • says

      You are so right about addiction, Donna! I already was out photographing some other fungi that popped up. Now I’m learning gills vs non-gills. I will say one thing as far as fungi….you can’t miss this species…unless maybe you are use to working amongst the dead. I’ll be curious to see if there are species of fungi specific to certain areas of the country. Let’s keep track, north vs south. :)
      loret recently posted..One for the Bugguide record books!

  2. robin says

    I just noticed some of these a couple days ago. I was soo excited. Love it when Mother Nature helps me out in the garden!!

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