Posted by: Curtis Utley, Jefferson County Extension
Multiple times per season clients will submit a non-typical mushroom to the Jefferson County Plant Clinic and ask with much venom or distaste “What is this and how do I get rid of it!” Our clinicians will smile and proclaim “Why, that’s Phallus impudicus”, a common mushroom of the garden or residential lot.
|Phallus impudicus in a lawn|
Why is this mushroom so offensive and illicit such a passionate response? Oh let me count the ways. For starters, P. impudicus starts off as a beautiful but oft unwelcome lavender colored “egg” hiding just below the soil surface, sometimes homeowners will dig in their yards and discover this stage of the fruiting body. The mushroom is apparently edible in this “witch’s egg stage” but I personally have yet to partake in that gustatory adventure.
|Witch's egg stage|
Secondly, as the mushroom emerges from the egg stage to rear its ugly head it is shaped like a phallus which is unnerving to many peoples’ sense of garden propriety. Thirdly the cap of the mushroom is covered in green slime known as gleba. Forth, the green slime on the cap stinks and is why the common name of P. impudicus is Stinkhorn.
|Bottom Right- gleba or green slime prominent|
Uniquely the mushroom’s spores are contained within the slimily matrix, why? Loathsome reason number five: The stinking slimy mushroom cap attracts flies. Most mushrooms produce dry spores that are released and dispersed on air currents, but not our Stinkhorn, its spores are disseminated by filth flies who joyfully lap up the goo and carry off the spores to parts unknown.
|Blow flies, (Lucilia sericata) collecting the rotting hulk of P. impudicus|
Environmental disclaimer: Fungi are an important component of nutrient cycling and in soils world-wide, without them, biomass would overwhelm us. If you do not want to give mushrooms quarter on your property simply remove and dispose of the fruiting bodies when they arise.