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