The recent rains have been ample to make the plants and trees grow. Even this late in the year the moisture supports growth, but in December the development usually takes place unseen below ground.
That is not the case with fungi species. The local mushrooms and toad stool appear overnight in all sorts of location, including well-manicured lawns.
The expectation is a single trunk with a domed cap, usually white in color and a few inches tall. Occasionally, there is a surprise appearance with will briefly mystify the onlooker.
Stinkhorn, Botanically Known as the Mutinus Elegans
The elegant stinkhorn, botanically known as the Mutinus elegans, is a striking orange finger shooting up from the ground. It appears as a carrot which grew in the wrong direction.
Imaginative observers have given this fungus other common names. These include the headless stinkhorn, the devil’s dipstick and demon fingers.
The short lived above ground structure is usually extends to two to six inches long at maturity. This area is known as the fruiting body and produces spores which are the basis for the next generation.
The single hollow column or finger projects upward above the soil or mulch. Coloration of the fruiting body can range from pink to orange.
The upper surfaces of the column are covered with green stinkhorn slime and spores, and which produces an especially noticeable stench to humans. This foul odor is useful though, attracting an assortment of flies and other insects which track through it.
A small amount of the slime and spores attaches to the insect’s body. It is then carried by these discriminating visitors to other bug enticing spots, usually of equal or greater offensiveness to people. Spores are deposited as the slime mixture is rubbed off as the insects brush against surfaces.
Favorable Environments for the Column Stinkhorn
Decaying woody debris is a favorable environment for the column stinkhorn to germinate. As the wood rots bacterial activity makes necessary nutrients available to this mushroom.
Other areas satisfactory for development include lawns, gardens, flower beds and disturbed soils. All contain bits and pieces of decomposing wood and bark.
Occasionally, elegant stinkhorns can be seen growing directly out of stumps and living trees. Presence on a living tree is a good indication the tree has serious health issues and may soon be in the fatal grip of this fungus.
Stages of the Fungi
This fungi starts out as a partially covered growth called a volva. This part, above and below the soils surface, has the general appearance of a hen’s egg and is white.
The term volva is applied in the technical study of mushrooms, and used to describe a cup-like structure at the base of the fungus. It is one of the precise visible features used to identify specific species.
The recent wet weather in Wakulla County combined with local sandy soils and available nutrients create ideal growing conditions. While rarely notices during initial stages of growth, they are quickly spotted at or near maturity.
Other Stinkhorn Mushrooms in Wakulla County
There are other stinkhorn mushrooms in Wakulla County, especially the column stinkhorn. In addition to North America, member of this fungi family with a fetid aroma can be found in Europe, Asia, South America and Australia.
Research has indicated this species has antibiotic properties. Self-administration is not recommended, not that anyone could handle the smell.
To learn more about Wakulla County’s mushrooms, contact your UF/IFAS Wakulla Extension Office at 850-926-3931 or http://wakulla.ifas.ufl.edu/
The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information, and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions, or affiliations. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Cooperative Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A&M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating.