There is nothing surprising here.
I sniffed a stinkhorn.
The Whats, Whys And Hows.
Stinkhorn is the common name for a group of mushrooms best known by two characteristics: The mushroom emerges from an “egg” and it produces a foul-smelling goo!
I don’t know how many different species there are but among them are some of the rudest and freakiest mushrooms you are likely to see!
This one is known as The Common Stinkhorn, it’s name, Phallus impudicus, roughly translates as “impudent penis-thing”
I haven’t found any other Stinkhorns yet, there are a few that tend toward grotesque imitations of male organs, (mainly dog!) but some that look like red alien tentacles covered in brown slime; They even “hatch” from an “egg” FFS!
Why did I sniff it or why did it stink?
Well, I sniffed it because, as we were walking home from a picnic in the woods, I heard somebody say “sumink stinks around ere!” and at the same time I saw the mushroom and something clicked in my head: Stinkhorn!
I wanted to confirm my identification and I also wanted to know just how bad that horn stinks.
Why did it stink? Because it was a stinkhorn! I was right, yay!
Unlike most mushrooms, Stinkhorns use insects for spore dispersal.
Similar to Flowers, only DISGUSTING!
Instead of sweet smells and nectar for bees and butterflies, smelly brown mush for flies. [shudders]
The first two Stinkhorns that I found were all white, with kind of a wrinkly cap but in photos I had looked at they sometimes had a smooth brown cap.
I learned that the brown is the bit the flies like to eat, so by the time I had found them, it had all been eaten away.
I had the opportunity to witness this process in action, when I found the third one. (below)
Let me tell you exactly how! Just in case you are picturing me, a slight bend of the knees, gently sniffing the surrounding air… No. That’s not how it happened. No, no… no, I got down on my hands and knees, put my face very close to the offending member and inhaled deeply through my nostrils…
The effect was immediate and involuntary.
My entire body seized violently, and with a loud guttural noise, I retched as though purging the devil himself… (I do have a low gag reflex to be fair)
The Search For The Stinky Stinkhorn.
I didn’t actually take any photos of the Stinkhorn that I sniffed. I did have a photo of one I’d taken a couple of days before, but as I started writing this I realised I would need some better photos for you.
So, I went out in search of one nearby but no luck!
The following day, my friend and neighbour, Stuart, offered to drive us back to the woods where I had sniffed the Stinkhorn.
Once we got there, we had to walk down a very steep rocky path, to get to where it had been but there was no trace of it.
I was feeling frustrated because it’s a very common mushroom, and as you can imagine, not particularly sought after.
As we headed back towards the car, I left the path and crashed through the woods, determined not to leave without finding one!
I probably would have walked right past it but in that mysterious way, that often happens, I was drawn to the right place by something else.
In this instance, a rather magnificent looking Boletus of some kind.
And as I knelt to get a better look, I became aware of something to my left and turned to witness the mass exodus of flies, and there it was, in all it’s reeking glory…
“I’VE FOUND A STINKHORN!”
I bellowed, probably way more enthusiastically than those words are usually uttered.
Stuart decided he wanted to sniff the stinkhorn this time, although his reaction wasn’t as dramatic as mine, he certainly wasn’t himself for the rest of the day. “I can still smell it!”
I didn’t sniff it this time, although I did smell it… [distant haunted expression passes face]
What Does A Stinkhorn Smell Like?
It’s usually described as smelling like rotting meat, that’s pretty accurate. It smells like death and decay.
Interestingly, they are edible buuut… I’m not really hungry right now!
Try it. Sniff a Stinkhorn! Let me know how it goes in the comments below.
Or have you already sniffed one? How would you describe it?
And please share anything you know about Stinkhorns because I’m fascinated by these repulsive appendages!