How to get rid of stinkhorn fungus?

Is your backyard producing a strange odor or smell? Do you see fungus growing around your feet? There may be stinkhorns about! Read on to learn about how to get rid of stinkhorns from your property.

Photo by Will Brown

How to Get Rid of Stinkhorns

Cold and moist weather occurring in summer, during several weeks a year, brings something odd and unpleasant to landscapes, backyards, and gardens. A putrid, rotting smell starts spreading all over, an odor so atrocious that you can’t even open your window.

The distinct smell actually comes from a fungus called Stinkhorn – a fungus with a straight phallus-like stem, found in many western parts of North America. Due to the obscene shape, Victorian people were disgusted and ashamed at the shape of this fungus. With no knowledge about benefits of this mushroom, they considered it ignominious, so killing the fungus with cudgels was a part of the ritual.

Stinkhorn is certainly unpleasant both for the eye and the nose, so it’s not a surprise that almost everyone tries to get rid of it. But, how to do that? Is there maybe a reason why just it shouldn’t be removed from your backyard? Here are some insights which may help you to make a final decision.

What Are Stinkhorns?

Stinkhorns are saprophyte fungi of Phallaceaefamily. Phallaceae family includes many fungi that appear in various body shapes, sizes, and colors. Depending on the type, they can be star-shaped, globular and finger-like, and the colors vary from white to orange and pink. Some of them even have a ‘skirt’ – a white crochet-like membrane, covering the mushroom’s body.

There are several Stinkhorn species usually found in our landscapes:

  • Phallus impudicus or Common Stinkhorn – phallus-like, tall and white stem with dark olive colored cap
  • Phallus hadriani or Dune Stinkhorn – the top of the stem have a thimble-like cap with olive-colored spore slime
  • Mutinus Caninus (Mutinus elegans) or Dog Stinkhorn – headless, single stalk orange to pink mushroom
  • Aseroe rubra or Starfish Stinkhorn – red, star-shaped mushroom covered in brownish slime on a white stalk

All of them have something in common – they smell terribly atrocious. Stinkhorns’ caps are covered by a sticky, smelly substance called the gleba, borne on the end of a stalk known as receptaculum. Stinkhorns’ existence and reproduction actually depend on this foul smell – it attracts ants and flies which help Stinkhorns to spread their spores.

Although there is a great diversity in fungi shape, structure and color, all Stinkhorn mushrooms start out as egg-like oval structures. These golf ball-like eggs usually grow underground, but some of them are found peeking out of the soil. Mature receptaculum emerges from the egg and gives the mushroom its final shape.

They usually grow in colonies and they grow extremely rapidly – it seems they just suddenly pop-up. Their rapid growth can be observed with the naked eye – this mushroom can grow to 1 cm in just 5 minutes.

Stinkhorns, like all mushrooms, are saprophyte, meaning they are unable to produce their own food, so they need nutrients from the soil. Stinkhorns are usually associated with the rotten wood and they are found in the decomposing hardwood mulch – they breed on sawdust piles, dead roots, underground stumps, rotting timber and other high cellulose containing materials.

How to Control and Kill Stinkhorn Fungus?

The bad news is that there isn’t much what one can do. But, the one is they are not harmful to people and plants, and they are seasonal, occurring only for several weeks once or twice a year.

Nevertheless, if you can’t stand the smell, or their presence simply annoys you, there are some control and prevention measures that could keep them from coming back.

First of all – forget chemical treatment. There is no safe and effective chemical control that can be recommended. Home-made chemical treatments (like bleach in boiling water) can be unsafe for you, but they can also kill various of helpful bacteria and fungus present in the soil.

Instead, try cultural method – hand-picking.

Put on disposable protective gloves (the smell of Stinkhorns is difficult to remove from the skin) and try to collect all the grown fungi and underground eggs too. Put them in a zipper bag to avoid spore spreading and throw them away. Remove a certain amount of the soil around Stinkhorn, too. This way you will get rid of the remaining spores, inhibiting the further growth of these mushrooms.

Remove the underground part of mature mushrooms – not just the visible above-ground part – a much larger fungal mass (mycelium), full of spores, is actually growing beneath the surface.

Stinkhorns eggs can be found in the ground year-round, but most of the year they’re dormant. They start growing with the heavy rains during summer months.

Simply remove visible samples as they occur. It is easy, practical, and shown effective. You can locate them easily – just trust your nose and follow the smell.

Don’t water the area for a while. Mushrooms need a dump for flourishing. Keep your soil dry as much as you can.

Finally, consider the most effective method –environment alteration. Since Stinkhorn breed on mulch, try to remove their food source. Remove the mulch and all decaying organic material and consider replacing them with a live groundcovers, pine and cypress needles, straw etc.

Or, simply be patient – when sunny, dryer and warmer days arrive, Stinkhorns will no longer be appearing. The mushrooms will disappear when conditions no longer favor them.

How to Benefit from Stinkhorns?

If you can tolerate Stinkhorns’ smell, you should consider keeping them in your garden. Stinkhorns are decomposers – they break down the rotting organic material, creating a nutritively rich environment for the plants. When they break down the mulch, plants use that material for nourishment.

So, they are really beneficial organisms for the garden soil. If you can tolerate the smell, don’t remove them. They’ll disappear by themselves in a few weeks, and your soil will be enriched with various nutrients.

Believe it or not, not just the Stinkhorns are not poisonous, at the egg stage, they are even said to be edible. It is a usual meal in Asia; they are treated as a delicacy in Germany, and some civilizations have used these strange mushrooms as an aphrodisiac for centuries. Though it isn’t greatly valued as food, some of the bravest dare to eat it.

However, considering Stinkhorns’ non-harmful and beneficial nature, think twice before you decide to destroy them.

How to Rid Your Garden of Stinkhorn Fungus

Different types of fungus may show up in your garden from time to time. Fungi usually show up when you overwater the plants that do not get proper sunlight and are always wet. Most of the fungi can be eliminated from the garden in their early stages itself. However, a particular variety of fungi known as stinkhorn fungus pops up suddenly and emits a very foul odor—hence the name “stinkhorn.”

When fully developed, stinkhorn fungus covers itself with a slimy substance and emits unbearable stench. These fungi adopt this ingenious tactic to attract insects to spread their spores. Resembling a finger, stinkhorn fungi spreads very quickly, and if not contained early, it may the fill the entire neighborhood with smell similar to rotten flesh.

Step 1 – Locate the Stinkhorn

Finding stinkhorns is very easy; in fact your sense of smell will guide you to where the infection site. Whether there are just one or two stinkhorns or a whole colony, you will typically be able to find them without any problems. Stinkhorns usually grow on decaying plant materials such as leaves or rotting branches or barks.

Step 2 – Remove the Stinkhorn

Wear your protective gloves and gently remove the egg-like portion of stinkhorn and place it in a plastic bag. The rest of the portion is non-smelly and non-reproductive and can be discarded along with other yard waste.

Then, pick the soil or growth material lying in the immediate vicinity to inhibit further growth of stinkhorns. Alternatively, you can also mix bleach in boiling water and pour the hot mixture over the stinkhorn and affected area. This needs to be done repeatedly until the entire area is cleared.

Precautions and Tips

  • Take ample care that you do not touch the slime of stinkhorn while removing the fungus because the odor is difficult to remove from skin
  • It is very important that you dispose the egg-like portion of stinkhorns properly because they will continue growing, creating more problems for you or your neighbors.
  • Once you have removed the stinkhorns, make sure the affected area is getting plenty of sunlight so that it dries up quickly and does not allow any more fungi to flourish.
  • Make sure the plastic bags in which the stinkhorn is being disposed are not torn as this may allow the insects to find its way inside the bag, which may again lead to the growth of this fungus in the surrounding area

If none of the abovementioned methods work, then you will have to resort to fungicides. Use of environment-friendly chemicals is recommended. If you are unable to lay your hands on them, try using a copper-based fungicide

What Are Stinkhorns: Tips For Removing Stinkhorn Fungi

What is that smell? And what are those odd-looking red-orange things in the garden? If it smells like putrid rotting meat, you’re probably dealing with stinkhorn mushrooms. There is no quick fix for the problem, but read on to find out about a few control measures you can try.

What are Stinkhorns?

Stinkhorn fungi are smelly, reddish orange mushrooms that may resemble a wiffle ball, an octopus or a straight stem up to 8 inches high. They don’t harm plants or cause disease. In fact, plants benefit from the presence of stinkhorn mushrooms because they break down rotting material into a form plants can use for nourishment. If it weren’t for their horrible smell, gardeners would welcome their brief visit in the garden.

Stinkhorns emit their odor to attract flies. The fruiting bodies emerge from the egg sac covered with slimy, olive green coating, which contains the spores. The flies eat the spores and then distribute them over a wide area.

How to Get Rid of Stinkhorn Mushrooms

Stinkhorn fungus is seasonal and doesn’t last very long. Given time the mushrooms will simply go away on their own, but many people find them so offensive that they aren’t willing to wait. There are no chemicals or sprays that are effective at removing stinkhorn fungi. Once they appear, about the only thing you can do is close the windows and wait. There are, however, a few control measures that can help keep them from coming back.

Stinkhorn mushrooms grow on rotting organic matter. Remove underground stumps, dead roots and sawdust left from grinding stumps. The fungus also grows on decomposing hardwood mulch, so replace old hardwood mulch with pine needles, straw or chopped leaves. You might also consider using live ground covers instead of mulch.

Stinkhorn fungus begins life as an underground, egg-shaped structure about the size of a golf ball. Dig up the eggs before they have a chance to produce fruiting bodies, which are the above ground part of the fungus. In many areas, they’ll come back a couple of times a year unless you remove their food source, so mark the spot.

Q: A mulched area under one of my trees has a large number of stinkhorns in it. It is beside my children’s bedroom windows and it certainly has the correct name of “stink”! Is there any way to kill them and prevent them from coming back?

A: There are four common stinkhorn mushrooms I’m aware of.

Common stinkhorn, Phallus impudicus, has a white shaft and a brownish-green “head”

Elegant stinkhorn, Mutinus elegans, (and also M. caninus and M. ravenelii), has a orange-pink shaft and a dark, tapered head.

Latticed stinkhorn, Clathrus ruber, is orange pink and looks like a red bell pepper turned inside out.

Stinky squid mushroom, Pseudocolus fusiformis, looks like a pink squid.

As their name implies, they all stink to high heaven.

They grow in damp wood mulch, emerging from a whitish, semi-solid “egg”. Once they take on their final shape, their spore sacs emit a green slime that attracts flies and beetles to the area. The insects feed on the mushroom and carry the spores wherever they land.

Since the fungi depend on warm, damp mulch, the easiest way to control them would be to loosen the area with a rake and halt any nearby irrigation.

See Phallus impudicus & Phallus hadriani: The Common Stinkhorn,

Mutinus elegans, M. caninus, & M. ravenelii,

Clathrus: Latticed Stinkhorn, and

Pseudocolus fusiformis: The Stinky Squid.

elegant stinkhorn

elegant stinkhorn

netted stinkhorn

dog stinkhorn

latticed stinkhorn

stinky squid mushroom

Tags For This Article: insects, mulch, mushroom identification

The Red Spear-Tip Fungus Mushroom Found in Mulch

Emily Churchill/iStock/Getty Images

Many a gardener has been confused, amused or offended by the red spear-like fungus that commonly appears in mulch. The elegant stinkhorn (Mutinus elegans) is also known by the name “devil’s dipstick” and belongs to the family Phallaceae. Legend claims that Charles Darwin’s daughter Effy was so offended by the appearance of the mushroom that she would wander their lands gathering them in a basket. She would burn them all in order to protect the “morals of the maids” in their employ.

Cousin or Twin?

The dog stinkhorn (Mutinus caninus) might also be found growing in your mulch. It is likely that this similar mushroom may in fact be the same exact species as the elegant stinkhorn. Mushroom scientists have yet to agree if they are the same species, but many use the terms “elegant” and “dog” mushrooms interchangeably.

What is That Smell?

There is more to be offended by with the stinkhorn than its shape. At full maturity, a slimy brown spore coating appears near the tip of the horn. This coating has an extremely foul carrion-like odor. Although extremely unpleasant for the home gardener who doesn’t like the smell of dead creatures in their garden, this smelly tip has a purpose. The scent draws in flies and others who feed on carrion. The flies pick up the spores and dispense them wherever they land next, completing the stinkhorn’s life cycle in unique fashion.

Growing Up

After a fly deposits the mycelium, or fungal cells, they penetrate soil or mulch and begin to digest organic material. The stinkhorn develops above ground after it is ready to reproduce, usually between July and September. Old wood, dead leaves and rich soil are particularly likely to promote growth. The fungus first appears as white string-like root systems running over the ground. These strings are the actual fungus. The buttons and horns that appear later are the fruiting bodies, or flowers, of the fungus.

Stinky But Useful

Stinkhorns can look and smell unappealing but are actually helpful in breaking down mulch into the useful organic materials that enrich soil. The fruiting bodies only last a few days, so they are not something you must live with long. For most, their ecological benefits outweigh the temporary annoyance. They are not poisonous and create no danger for your pets or family.


Michelle Keller-Pearson, UW-Madison Plant Pathology

Item Number: XHT1247

Revised: June 15, 2016

What are stinkhorns? Stinkhorns are mushrooms that are found from the tropics to more temperate regions such as Wisconsin. They can suddenly appear in mulch, lawns, and areas with bare soil. These visually-shocking fungi get their common name from their characteristic, unpleasant odor. Although they are often unwanted additions to home gardens, stinkhorns do not cause plant disease. Because stinkhorns can grow on dead organic material, they actually are beneficial in that they contribute to the recycling of plant debris into nutrients that improve soil fertility and can be used by garden plants.

What do stinkhorns look like? Stinkhorns grow into various shapes, but they are best known for looking like horns or penises. A few species grow several appendages, resulting in an octopus-like appearance. Some species have a veil attached below the cap that resembles a lacey skirt flowing from the mushroom’s hollow stalk. Stinkhorns can range in color from white, beige, and olive to bright orange or red with black accents. The tips of mature stinkhorns are usually coated in a spore-containing slime. Gardeners often discover immature stinkhorns as they dig in the soil. The immature forms appear as whitish to pink or purple, egg-shaped masses. Stinkhorns develop rapidly sometimes growing up to four to six inches per hour, and can generate enough force to break through asphalt.

Where do stinkhorns come from? Stinkhorns are often first introduced into a garden in organic materials (e.g., soils and mulches) that contain microscopic hyphae (i.e., fungal threads) of stinkhorn fungi. Once stinkhorns mature, they produce a pungent, off-putting odor that is reminiscent of rotting flesh or dung. This smell may disgust people, but it attracts insects, particularly flies. Flies and other insects eat the slimy material at the tips of stinkhorns and carry spores in this slime to new locations as they move around in the environment. In many ways, this process is comparable to the distribution of pollen by bees (but of course without the more appealing scents associated with most flowers).

How do I control stinkhorns? Stinkhorns are short-lived and will naturally disappear quite rapidly. If stinkhorns are too unsightly, if their smell becomes too putrid, if they attract too many insects, or if there is concern about small children or pets eating them, pluck them from the ground and discard them as they appear. Keep in mind however, that removing stinkhorns will not eradicate them. Stinkhorn hyphae will remain in the soil or mulch and will eventually produce other stinkhorn mushrooms. In addition, flies and other insects carrying stinkhorn spores can introduce these fungi to new locations.

How can I prevent problems with stinkhorns in the future? No fungicide treatments or other methods are available to prevent stinkhorns from appearing in a garden. Removing organic matter (e.g., mulch) or reducing soil moisture may reduce the number of stinkhorns that appear. However, these strategies are unlikely to eradicate stinkhorn fungi. Therefore whenever stinkhorns appear, consider embracing their unique beauty and enjoy their brief time in your garden.


Stinkhorns PDF

Tags: fungi, mushroom Categories: Flower Problems, Flowers, Fruit Problems, Fruits, Lawn Problems, Lawns, Tree & Shrub Problems, Trees & Shrubs, Vegetable Problems, Vegetables

Recent rains have mushrooms popping up in Georgia lawns

Recent rainfall has led to an explosion of mushrooms in lawns and mulched areas. Most of these fungi are completely harmless, though some consider them annoying.

Mushrooms are plants

Mushrooms do not contain chlorophyll, but they are considered plants. They are the fruiting bodies of fungi that live below the soil surface. Fungi are a vital part of a healthy soil ecosystem. It’s a misconception that mushrooms are a sign of soil problems; they help break down dead plants and other organic matter in the soil and provide nutrients for other plants.

Mushrooms usually emerge when rain follows extended dry periods. Dry weather stresses the fungi, and when water becomes available, it triggers the reproductive mechanism and mushrooms pop up. Several types of fungi can show up in the landscape.

Nuisance fungi are most common on hardwood bark mulches and wood chips as well as in lawns where trees have been removed. When trees are removed, much of their root system is left behind to decay. This provides an ample source of nutrition for mushrooms.

Dog vomit and stinkhorns

One of the most eye-catching, mulch inhabiting fungi is a type of slime mold commonly referred to as dog vomit. Fuligo septica, the scientific name for this slime mold, typically occurs on mulch. This bright yellow or orange growth usually begins as small areas a few inches across but can rapidly grow up to several feet in diameter. As it dries it fades to brown and tan.

Slime molds do not harm plants and usually dry up within a few days of forming. One of their more curious characteristics is that they are actually able to move two or three feet a day. If their appearance is offensive, scoop them up and add them to the compost pile or throw them away.

Another interesting fungus family is the Phallaceae which includes the mushrooms known as stinkhorns. Most people smell stinkhorns before they see them. While their smell or appearance may be undesirable, stinkhorns are beneficial to the landscape by helping to break down decaying plant material. Stinkhorns do not harm landscape plants or grasses. If the smell is unbearable, remove the mushroom and place in into a sealable plastic container.

The octopus stinkhorn is one of the most common and most putrid. The name octopus stinkhorn is fitting for this mushroom that looks like an orange octopus popping out of mulch. It emits a very foul odor.

Stinkhorns grow from egg-like sacks that can be found in the mulch they inhabit. The stinkhorn and egg-like sack are the reproductive parts of a larger body mass made up of white, thin threads known as hyphae. Like all mushrooms, removing just the visible growth does not get rid of the fungus because the majority of its body is left behind.

Fairy rings are hard to control

Circles or partial circles of mushrooms, called fairy rings, mark where a colony of fungi is hard at work decaying organic material. The fingers of the fungi extend radially from the colony, and mushrooms grow where the fingers emerge from the soil.

Fairy rings are the hardest mushrooms to deal with. They are hard to control and produce toxins that can kill grass. When you remove the mushrooms, you could still be left with a dead patch of grass.

Another interesting specimen is the Bolete, easily identified by its pores. Boletes form a mutually-beneficial relationship, called mycorrhizal association, with the roots of trees and other plants.

As the fungus invades the roots it frees minerals from the soil and allows the host tree to absorb them. In return, the fungus obtains vitamins and other organic materials from its host. If these mushrooms are unsightly, remove them by hand-picking.

Keep kids and pets away

The main reasons to remove mushrooms are to keep children and pets from eating them and to improve a lawn’s appearance. Never eat an unidentified mushroom, as some mushrooms are poisonous to humans and animals.

The best way to keep mushrooms out of your landscape is to irrigate before the lawn gets too dry. If it stays somewhat moist, the fungus will stay underground and will not produce mushrooms. The lawns that tend to be covered with the most mushrooms are those that never get watered during droughts.

To rid your lawn of mushrooms, pull them up, kick them over or run over them with the lawn mower. This will keep them from releasing the spores that spread the fungi. Aerate your lawn to prevent further damage to your turfgrass.

After aerating the soil, water the area to dilute any toxins and wash them through the soil profile. If a patch of grass is dead, re-establish that area next spring, and keep it moist to prevent new mushroom growth.

Clathrus ruber P. Micheli ex Pers. – Red Cage or Lattice Fungus

Phylum: Basidiomycota – Class: Agaricomycetes – Order: Phallales – Family: Phallaceae

Distribution – Taxonomic History – Etymology – Identification – Reference Sources

Clathrus ruber is a remarkable species, almost certainly introduced rather than native to northern Europe. When seen for the first time it is often assumed to be something other than a fungus. Like the common stinkhorn and the dog stinkhorn, this ‘cage stinkhorn’ emerges from a white ball or ‘egg’ – and like other members of this family the egg is said to be edible. I have never met anyone who can confirm that from first-hand experience, and there are other reports saying that eating Red Cage eggs can cause serious gastric upsets.

The picture above shows both a mature and a newly-emerged fruitbody, the latter exhumed to show the rhizomorphs at the base of the ‘egg’.


Rare in mainland Britain but fairly common in the Channel Islands, this saprobic fungus is generally referred to as the Red Cage or as the Lattice (or Latticework) Fungus. Clathrus ruber is common in central and southern Europe. (We see them on roadside verges and in Cork Oak forests in the Algarve region of Portugal.) Clathrus ruber is also recorded from Asia and North America.

Taxonomic history

First described scientifically by Pier Antonio Micheli (1679-1737), the Italian botanist who first discovered fungal spores, Clathrus ruber, was was given its current scientific name in 1801 by Christiaan Hendrick Persoon.

Clathrus genus, the Red Cage Fungus, is the type species of the Clathrus genus.


The generic name Clathrus means ‘a cage’, while ruber means red, a rerefence to the colour of most of the fungi in this genus of stinkhorn-like fungi.

In France this strange stinkhorn is known as Coeur de Sorcière, which means Sorceror’s Heart. The red colour, which is due to the presence of carotenes (the chemicals that give carrots their characteristic deep orange-red colour) seems only to reinforce the smell of this stinkiest of mushrooms: that of rotting meat. The red colour might even, in being similar to the colour of meat, be a further attraction to flies.

Identification guide


Initially appearing as a half-buried whitish ball or ‘egg’, the cage-like formof this fungus becomes visible once the outer membrane of the egg bursts – pictured on the left. Within a few minutes, the fruitbody of the Red Cage Fungus expands to become a large, globe-shaped or ovoid structure whose surface consists of a lattice in the form of a rounded or oval cage-like mesh.

The bright red colour makes this striking species very easy to identify; however, it is a relatively rare find in Britain and occurs mainly in the south of England and on the Isle of Wight and in the Channel Isles. Fruitbodies erupt and then collapse in little more than 24 hours, and within two or three days all signs of the fruitbody have disappeared.


Typically 5 to 15cm across and most often roughly spherical, but some forms (or are they a different species?) have very narrow almost wire-like lattice frameworks while other related species are vertically aligned ellipsoids. This fungus has no stem. The inside of the cage is coated with a dark green smelly gleba that attracts flies, and as the gleba sticks to the legs of the flies it gets carried to other locations where a new Red Cage colony could result.


Elongated ellipsoidal, smooth, 4–6 x 1.5–2.5µm.

Show larger image

Spores of Clathrus ruber, Red Cage


Spore print



Strong, unpleasant odour reminescent of rotting meat; no distinctive taste (or so it is said!).

Habitat & Ecological role

Saprobic, mainly found in parks and gardens, Clathrus ruber often fruits in small groups on or beside decomposing vegetable matter and in particular compost heaps. Increasingly this species is being found growing on bark mulch in parks and gardens.


June to September in southern Britain, but all year round in the south of France and from October to May in the most southerly parts of Europe.

Similar species

Unlikely to mistaken for any other species in Britain and Ireland, although elsewhere in the world there are several similar species in the Clathrus genus.

Left Colus hirudinosus (syn. Clathrus hirudinosus) is found mainly in southern Europe, northern Africa and parts of Asia. (Picture courtesy of Penny Turner)

There are at least 20 known species in the Clathrus genus (and surely more waiting to be found), and most of them occur in tropical forests. Recently a new Clathus species has been discovered in South Africa and given the name Clathrus transvallensis. To date we have not seen any pictures of this species.

Ileodictyon cibarium

This is the scientific name of an australasian import that is a very rare sight in Britain; however, that particular species usually has an open, wire-like cage structure. The cage fungus shown below has a very robust mesh and might possibly be a different species.

The Red Cage fungi shown on this page were photographed either in France or, as the one shown below, in southern Portugal, where these members of the stinkhorn group are very common.

Reference Sources

Fascinated by Fungi, Pat O’Reilly 2016.

Pegler, D.N., Laessoe, T. & Spooner, B.M (1995). British Puffballs, Earthstars and Stinkhorns. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

Dictionary of the Fungi; Paul M. Kirk, Paul F. Cannon, David W. Minter and J. A. Stalpers; CABI, 2008

Taxonomic history and synonym information on these pages is drawn from many sources but in particular from the British Mycological Society’s GB Checklist of Fungi and (for basidiomycetes) on Kew’s Checklist of the British & Irish Basidiomycota.


This page includes pictures kindly contributed by Annemarie Fortune.

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Lion’s Mane Mushroom (Hericium erinaceus)

This strange mushroom goes by many names, including Lion’s Mane Mushroom, Bearded Tooth Mushroom, Hedgehog Mushroom, Satyr’s Beard, Bearded Hedgehog Mushroom, pom pom mushroom, or Bearded Tooth Fungus. Native to North America, it can be found growing on hardwood trees. Despite its strange looks, it is indeed edible.candiru/CC BY 3.0

Puffball Mushrooms

There are quite a few varieties of puffball mushroom, all of which belong in the division Basidiomycota, and all of which have their own unique characteristics. But what they all share in common is that they do not grow an open cap with spore-bearing gills, but instead the spores are grown internally and the mushroom develops an aperture or splits open to release the spore. Besides their general appearance, they are called puffballs because of the clouds of spores that “puff” out when they burst open or are hit with an impact like falling raindrops.

Indigo Milkcap (Lactarius indigo)

This purple beauty can be found in the coniferous and deciduous forests of eastern North America, East Asia, and Central America. When the mushroom is cut or broken open, the milk, or latex, that oozes out is a beautiful indigo blue. Though it looks quite poisonous, it is reportedly edible and is sold in some markets.

Latticed Stinkhorn (Clathrus ruber)

This mushroom is known as the latticed stinkhorn, the basket stinkhorn, or the red cage. These mushrooms can be found growing in leaf litter, on garden soil, grassy places, or in mulches. Though it isn’t clear if it is edible, apparently its smell is enough to deter anyone interested in eating it.

Bleeding Tooth (Hydnellum peckii)

This odd mushroom is found in North America and Europe, and was in the last few years also discovered in Iran and Korea. The younger specimens of the species bleed a bright red juice that has anticoagulant properties, hence its common name. Though they don’t seem to be poisonous, they have an extremely bitter taste and so are inedible.

Amethyst Deceiver (Laccaria amethystina)

This purple beauty is found in deciduous and coniferous forests in temperate zones around North America, Central and South America, Europe, and Asia. Though vividly purple when young, older specimens loose their bright coloration and are more difficult to identify, which is why it is called the “deceiver”. Though technically edible, it isn’t considered a good choice to eat especially because pollutants in the soil, such as arsenic, can bioaccumulate in the mushroom.

Veiled Lady Mushroom (Phallus indusiatus)

This delicate and strange mushroom can be found in gardens and woodlands in southern Asia, Africa, the Americas, and Australia. This edible and rather healthful mushroom is used in Chinese cuisine. While the lacy skirt is what draws our eyes, the mushroom actually uses the cap to draw attention too. It is coated in a greenish-brown slime that contains spores — the slime attracts flies and insects that help disperse the spores.a being/CC BY 3.0

Mycena chlorophos

This glow-in-the-dark mushroom is found in subtropical Asia, including Japan, Polynesia, Java, and Sri Lanka, in Australia, and Brazil. They are bioluminescent, emitting a glowing green light when in the dark. It is brightest when surrounding temperatures are about 81 °F, and for about a day after the cap forms and opens. After that, the glow dulls until it is undetectable by the naked eye.GFDL/CC BY-SA 3.0

Dog Stinkhorn (Mutinus caninus)

This phallus-shaped fungus is found in Europe, Asia, and eastern North America. First described in the 1700s, it’s Latin name as well as its common names in English and French hint at its shape, which resembles a dog’s penis. It starts as an egg-like fruiting body hidden in leaf litter in soils, and when the egg splits, the mushroom expands to its full height within a few hours. The tip is covered in a smelly spore-bearing slime that attracts insects, which help to disperse the spores.

Entoloma hochstetteri

This lovely blue mushroom is found in New Zealand and India. Though possibly poisonous, its beauty has been recognized by it being part of a set of fungal stamps issued in New Zealand in 2002 as well as put on the back of a $50 bank note in New Zealand in 1990.

Turkey Tail (Trametes versicolor)

This common mushroom is found all over the world — though however common it might be, it is always beautiful. It’s fanning shape and layers of coloring resemble a tom turkey’s tail. Colors can range depending on location and age, and the cap can be shades of rust-brown, dark brown, grey, and even black. Some older caps can appear green when they have a greenish algae growing on them. The turkey tail is considered a medicinal mushroom, and may possibly have positive benefits in protecting against cancer, though this is BY 3.0

Devil’s Cigar (Chorioactis geaster)

This is an extremely rare mushroom, and is found only in very select locations in Texas and Japan. In Texas, the fruiting body grows on the roots of dead cedar elms, while in Japan it grows on dead oak trees. “Scientists do not know why the fungus mysteriously lives only in Texas and Japan, locations of approximately the same latitude, but separated by 11,000 km (6,800 mi),” writes Wikipedia. “Fred Jay Seaver commented ‘this is only another illustration of the unusual and unpredictable distribution of many species of the fungi. It would be difficult indeed to account for it, and we merely accept the facts as they are.'”

False Morel, or Brain Mushroom (Gyromitra esculenta)

This odd mushroom grows a cap that quite resembles the shape of a brain. And indeed it does take brains to eat it. This mushroom is potentially fatal if eaten raw, but if prepared correctly it is considered a delicacy in Scandinavia, Eastern Europe, and here in the US in the Great Lakes region. Though it can be found being sold fresh in some markets, it is required to come with warning labels. A Polish study from 1971 showed that this species accounted for up to 23% of mushroom fatalities each year. So if in doubt, just stick with real morels and leave this false morel alone.pellaea/CC BY 3.0

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