October 23, 2013 2 Comments
Now and then, growing out of the mulch in front of my office building, there’s an outcropping of the most amazing mushrooms:
“What in the hell are they?” Apollonia squealed when I pointed the latest batch, which (as you can see) are especially evil and healthy-looking. “They smell rotten. Can’t you smell them?”
“Not a thing,” I said. (To be fair, I have a terrible sense of smell.) “And they’re beautiful. What colors!”
I looked them up later. They are stinkhorns. (I always thought “stinkhorn” was Apollonia’s maiden name.) They stake out lawns and driveways, and keep coming back forever once they’ve established themselves. They are Phallaceae, and if you look at the above picture, the name will probably make sense to you. There are many horrifying variants, but ours are Mutinus caninus, the “dog stinkhorn,” and maybe the “dog” part will make sense to you too if you look at the picture again. Stinkhorns are gooey and disgusting on purpose. They attract bugs with their smell and nasty texture, and the flies and ants carry the spores around. They start as an egglike growth like a puffball, and then – in just a few hours – they manifest their adult form. Here’s a time-lapse film of twenty hours in the life of a dog stinkhorn:
Nature is trying to send us a message through organisms like these.
But what’s the message, do you suppose?