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

  • Cecil
    THE MAYOR—Cecil Schoonover poses with a collection of garden gnomes that mysteriously arrive and disappear from his property. Along with the gnomes, someone created the sign stating that he is the Mayor of Gnomesville. He hasn’t yet tracked down the people involved in the prank, but he’s having a good time with the mystery.
  • Front.rest
    TAKE A BREAK—Last Wednesday’s session of Stair District Library’s Summer Reading Program ended with a quiet period in a class presented by yoga instructor Melany Gladieux of Toledo. Children learned a variety of yoga poses in the main room at the library, then finished off the session relaxing. Additional photos are on page 7. Area children are invited to visit the library today when the Michigan Science Center presents a flight program at 11 a.m. and roller coasters at 1 p.m.
  • Front.batter
    THE DERBY—Tyler “Smallpox” Flakne of Minnesota’s Home Run League All-Stars goes for the fence Friday night during the National Wiffle League Association’s home run derby in Morenci. This year the wiffleball national tournament moved from Dublin, Ohio, to Morenci’s Wakefield Park. During the derby, competitors had two minutes to hit as many home runs as possible. The winner this year finished with 21. See page 6 and 7 for additional photos.
  • Front.green Screen
    OUT OF THIS WORLD—Elizabeth McFadden and Elise Christle pose in front of the green screen as VolunTeen Noah Gilson makes them appear as though they are standing on the Moon. More photos from the Stair District Library’s NASA @ My Library program are on page 12.
  • Front.snake
    Lannis Smith of the Leslie Science and Nature Center in Ann Arbor shows off a python last week at Stair District Library's Summer Reading Program.
  • Front.fireworks
    FIREWORKS erupt Saturday night over Morenci’s Wakefield Park during the waning hours of the Town and Country Festival. Additional festival photos are inside.
  • Pipeline Spread
    LINED UP—Lengths of pipe were put in place last week along the route of the Rover natural gas pipeline that will stretch from Defiance, Ohio, to Ontario, Canada. Topsoil was removed before the pipes were laid out. The 42-inch diameter pipeline is scheduled for completion in November.
  • Front.rock Study
    ROCKHOUNDS—From the left, Joseph McCullough, Sean Pagett and Jonathan McCullough peer through hand lenses to study rocks. The project is part of Morenci Elementary School’s summer camp that continues into August.

Weekly newspaper serving SE Michigan and NW Ohio - State Line Observer ©2006-2017