Saturday, July 10, 2010

Or are you just glad to see me?

A garden is a world unto itself, it had better make room for the darker shades of feeling as well as the sunny ones. William Kent

Deep in the dark heart of my rain garden, a monster had been waiting, biding its time, till this cool summer morning to burst forth—a monster so vile, it has earned the name “The Stinkhorn!” The Dog Stinkhorn (Mutinus caninus), to be exact. Its genus name comes from a Roman god of fertility—a fellow with the unbelievable handle of “Mutunus Tutunus.” The scientific name indicates its resemblance to human—actually, in this case, canine—anatomy, but what about the English name? Even though I was close enough to take the photo, I wasn’t aware of an odor.

Stinkhorn is a fungus; less than 5 inches tall, but attention getting nonetheless. The cap is slimy, dark yellow-green. I learned that the cap is where the plant holds it spores, that is, the fungal equivalent of seeds. To distribute its spores, the fungus recruits flies, drawing them in with its delectable—to flies—aroma. Evidently, flies have better sense of smell than I. I took these pictures about 7:00 AM. Before noon most of the mushrooms had liquefied and almost disappeared. On warmer mornings, stinkhorns visible at 8:00 were gone by 9:00. References tell me that stinkhorns are common fungi, but these are the first I have ever found. Look for them where there’s shade and plenty of dead plant material. But don’t expect Sr. Mary Ignatius to appreciate the photos.


  1. These appeared in my landscape area (around rotted mulch) in the FRONT of my house last fall. Imagine my surprise, when pulling in to my driveway.....mine were shorter and "plumpier" so to speak! My neighbors were quite concerned about what I was trying to grow.

  2. At least I have been spared the embarrassment of front yard stinkhorns! Mine are located where I used to have a cherry tree. Was there a tree at the spot in your yard or do you think they are just using the mulch?

  3. The particular spot once had a forsythia (died) then a burning bush (died) and for the moment, I've given up planting anything there. But, lo and behold, Something GREW! I think it's just the old mulch.

  4. My friend Linda's Stinkhorns appeared in her front yard, and she was pretty sure the spores were in some Home Depot mulch. She discovered when trying to dig one up that their "junk" extends underground in the form of a testicle-like egg, which makes them appear even more phallic.