Friday 24 June 2011

Common Stinkhorn

Image via Wikipedia
Hmmm... "Common Stinkhorn". What does that tell us? I suppose it tells us that this thing is common. Good start. Perhaps it also tells us that it stinks? I suppose that's quite possible, a lot of things are deemed offensive by our tender nostrils. Does it... does it also tell us that it's... horny? Surely not! Surely that's just a  vulgar thought that crept out from some filthy crevice of my own sordid mind. Let's look beyond my dirty, little brain and look to what the sober observations of scientists say.

The scientific name for the Common Stinkhorn is Phallus impudicus. "Impudicus" comes from the Latin for "shameless". And "Phallus"... I see.

One botanist called it the "pricke mushroom". I could take a guess at what meaning for the word "prick" he was going for, but such an exercise is rendered unnecessary by the fact that the same guy also called it "fungus virilis penis effigie". Another guy called it "Hollanders workingtoole". Tut tut. How disappointing.

The mushroom isn't the only one who's "shameless". Men.

Common Stinkhorns are found in forests, meadows, gardens and all manner of other situations in Europe and North America, rising from the rotting leaves and wood on the ground. Young ones look like little eggs, about 5 cm long. In just a day or two it will look more like what it looks like and reach 10 to 25 cm (3.9 to 9.8 in) tall, just the kind of range to best inspire all sorts of conversations and accusations. Terrible.

Image by Alexandre Dulaunoy via Flickr
It's also slimy and smelly. The dark sort-of-green coloured bit at the top is called the fruiting body. It's actually more yellow coloured underneath, the green stuff is slime that smells like carrion and attracts blowflies, beetles and other things that find that kind of smell attractive.

The flies especially can feed on the slime, either unaware or not caring that it's full of spores that stick to their legs or can continue to survive all the way through their digestive system, ready to grow into new Common Stinkhorns when deposited.

Not only does this spread Common Stinkhorns to pastures new, but it also serves as a good indication to whomever it may concern that slime and stink is attractive mostly to flies and beetles.

Gentlemen: if you can think of something preferable to blowflies, don't look like something that grows out of rotting leaves.

Having said that, they are actually edible and not at all poisonous! People eat them when they're young, look like eggs and don't smell like a corpse. That's fine, I just... wouldn't.


TexWisGirl said...

hard to get thru this post and hold your dirty mind in check, yes?! ha!

Joseph JG said...

Yes! I tried very hard to not get outright disgusting, it wasn't easy. I appal myself sometimes!

Crunchy said...

I learned a new euphemism today!

Joseph JG said...

Haha! One can never have too many of those, I'm glad I could contribute to your quality of life.