Stinkhorns: the Devil's fungus

Written by David Green.

By DAVID GREEN 

Rosie Hoadley knew something strange was happening in her back yard last week, but she sure didn’t know what it was.

It turns out it was the attack of the stinkhorns.

fungus-1 The stinkhorn fungus is unique in many ways. First off, of course, is the color. Although there’s a variety of stinkhorns found all over the world, the species showing up here, the elegant stinkhorn (Mutinus elegans), is a striking orange finger shooting up from the ground. Wayne and Rosie Hoadley had more than half a dozen growing behind their house recently, and other area residents have also discovered the odd visitor.

Next on the stinkhorn’s list of characteristics is its odor. Maybe it should be listed first, because stinkhorns—also known as the devil’s dipstick—are often smelled before they’re seen. There’s no question about how the stinkhorn got its name.

The smell isn’t easy to describe, but think about rotting flesh and you’re getting close to stinkhorn.

Not every living creature considers the stinkhorn to be a foul finger of putrescence. Take a close look at one and you’re likely to find flies that seem to find it quite appealing.

A pungent substance oozes from the top of each finger to attract flies and other insects, and they unwittingly spread the spores of the fungus.

Stinkhorns are also unique in their growth pattern. They open from a white globe that’s mostly under the earth’s surface. The small globe—about the size of a golf ball—is sometimes called a witch’s egg.

Within two or three hours, the orange finger goes from nothing to a height of up to six inches, due to the rapid take-up of water. The cells of the mushroom are extra large, allowing for rapid division. The center of the finger is hollow.

The stinkhorn finger is a short-lived phenomena. Before the day is done, it wilts and collapses—and really stinks.

The “eggs” are attached to the ground by white strings called mycelia. This is actually the main body of the fungus. The orange stalk is more like the “flower.”

Stinkhorn “eggs” are said to be a delicacy in some parts of the world. According to some sources, the orange finger can also be eaten, but the question remains: Why would anyone want to?

   - Aug. 20, 2003

  • Front.train
    WRECKAGE—Morenci Fire Department member Taylor Schisler walks past the smoking wreckage of a semi-truck tractor on the north side of the Norfolk and Southern Railroad tracks on Ranger Highway. The truck trailer was on the south side of the tracks
  • Front.sculpta
    SCULPTORS—Morenci third grade students Emersyn Thompson (left) and Marissa Lawrence turn spaghetti sticks into mini sculptures Friday during a class visit to Stair District Library. All Morenci Elementary School classes recently visited the library to experience the creative construction toys purchased through the “Sculptamania!” project, funded by a Disney Curiosity Creates grant. The grant is administered by the Association for Library Services to Children, a division of the American Library Association.
  • Funcolor
    LEONIE LEAHY was one of three local hair stylists who volunteered time Friday at the Morenci PTO Fun Night. Her customer, Aubrey Sandusky, looks up at her mother while her hair takes on a perfect match to her outfit. Leahy said she had a great time at the event—nothing but happy clients.
  • Shadow.salon
    LEARNING THE ROPES—Kristy Castillo (left), co-owner of Mane Street Salon, works with Kendal Kuhn as Sierra Orner takes a phone call. The two Morenci Area High School juniors spent Friday at the salon as part of a job shadowing experience.
  • KayseInField
    IN THE FIELD—2004 Morenci graduate Kayse Onweller works in a test plot of wheat in Texas. She’s part of Bayer CropScience’s North American wheat breeding program based in Nebraska, where she completed post-graduate work in plant breeding and genetics.
  • Front.winner
    REFEREE Camden Miller raises the hand of Morenci Jr. Dawgs wrestler Ryder Ryan as his opponent leaves the mat in disappointment. Morenci’s youth wrestling program served as host for a tournament Saturday morning to raise money for the club. Additional photos are on the back page.
  • Front.bank.2
    SHERWOOD STATE Bank opened its Fayette office at a grand opening Friday morning, drawing a large crowd to view the renovated building. Above, Burt Blue talks to teller Cindy Funk, while his wife, Jackie, looks around the new office. The Blues missed the opening and took a quick tour on Tuesday. Few traces remain of the former grocery store and theater, however, part of the original brick wall still shows in the hallway leading to the back of the building. The drive-through window should be ready for customers later in the month.
  • Front.make.three
    FROM THE LEFT, Landon Wilkins, Ryan White and Logan Blaker try out their artistic skills Saturday afternoon at the Morenci PTO’s first Date to Create event. More than 50 people showed up to create decorated planks of wood to hang from rope. The event served as a fund-raiser for miscellaneous PTO projects. Additional photos are on the back of this week’s Observer.

Weekly newspaper serving SE Michigan and NW Ohio - State Line Observer ©2006-2016