Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Red Cage Fungus

Image: key lime pie yumyum via Flickr
A Demon strides toward you. He must be 9 feet tall, his hoofed feet effortlessly landing on the small lumps of rock that float atop the broiling lava. Tendrils of flame lick his flesh almost up to his knees, blackening his skin and burning away flecks of hair.

Above his knees and up to his waist is a thick mass of brown fur, matted, clumped and variously tinged with red and black. Above the waist his leathery skin is a sickly, almost celebratory orange. His eyes are completely black, but surrounded by a painful red as if irritated by the acidic fumes.

"You? You wish to fight for your freedom?"

You stare up at him, unable to speak.

"Are you ready for the Red Cage?"

Image: amadej2008 via Flickr
Clathrus ruber is a mushroom who shows us that even in the depths of Hell and evil, there is a strange beauty to be found. I bet Satan is really good with watercolours.

This fungus has an assortment of names; the Red Cage, Latticed Stinkhorn and Basket Stinkhorn. In some parts of Europe its name translates to Witch's Heart. In France it's called Coeur de Sorcière, Sorceror's Heart.

All very mystical! Aside from the Stinkhorn stuff. The Red Cage is indeed in the Stinkhorn family. It stinks. Mainly of rot and death.

Image: scott.zona via Flickr
The stench attracts flies.

Lots and lots of flies.

This is how they get their microscopic spores spread all over the place. Originally it was all in Europe, but they've since been introduced to just about every continent on Earth. It's like they wanted to be absolutely sure that this was a demon-haunted world.

The spore produces a mycelium, which is like a big bundle of roots for feeding on decaying, woody, plant stuff.

Image: Gencer Emiroglu
Next they produce a kind of egg which can be up to 6 cm (2.4 in) in diameter.

Image: Wikipedia
The egg hatches and something nasty peers out at the world for the first time.

The young stinker continues to grow and tear out of the confines of the egg, the remnants of which is known as the volva.

Image: Tomás Mazón via Flickr
The inner side of the latticework is covered in a sticky, olive-green slime called the gleba. This is the stuff that produces the nasty smell and contains all the spores. It attracts the flies, it sticks to the flies and it travels far and wide on the flies.

The Red Cage will eventually reach anywhere between 8 and 20 cm (3.1 and 7.9 in) tall and could be pink, orange or red. It finally collapses just 24 hours after emerging from the egg. Then it rots away. For real, this time.

Image: Juaninda (Juan Sevilla) via Flickr
Is it beautiful? Is it disgusting? Do all those flies spoil something that could otherwise be displayed right in the middle of your dining room table?

I'm simple. I just call it Monstrous!


TexWisGirl said...

funky - in looks and smell, i can imagine. your intro was too funny. :)

Unknown said...

Thanks! And funky is the perfect word!

EstebanGrande said...

I found one of these next to my car today in West Palm Beach, FL while paying the meter. It was beautiful. I took some pictures.

Unknown said...

Wow, lucky you! It's always great to see something beautiful when you're doing mundane tasks.

Unknown said...

I found one in my back yard. Corozal,Belize central America have some pictures which I would like to share.

Unknown said...


Janice said...

I found one this am in Ft. Myers Fl. Was fascinated and have spent most of today learning about how wonderful our world is. Looking forward to sharing this with my Grandson Zackery.

Unknown said...

Cool! Mushrooms like this must be some of the wierdest things to stumble across if you don't know what it is.

Unknown said...

I found one this am in St.Petersburg FL. area.. It is really cool to see...

Unknown said...

I found one yesterday in Pompano beach fl :p weiiiird

Unknown said...

@larry riley @Laura Olson: It's so great that so many people are getting see them all over the place!

Unknown said...

I found afew in my garden today! Omgoodness they smell so bad. Australia

Unknown said...

Lucky you!

Unknown said...

I saw one of these today in front of our apartment complex and to be honest, I thought it was gross. I took pics to show to my friends. It looks like something that dropped from outer space. GOD is awesome!

Unknown said...

We found one today in Cortez, FL.

Dyanna Meyer said...

Yo encontré uno por la mañana en el jardín en puerto Morelos Quintana Roo. Parecía un ser extraterrestre vivo , aunque innerme con ese olor extravagante desagradable , nunca había visto algo así . Hermosa madre naturaleza.

Colleen said...

Incredible. Found one this morning in Fort Lauderdale, FL and am glad to see so many other Floridians have spotted them too! Red and cage-like growing on wood chip mulch. Tons of flies. So weird and awesome!

Unknown said...

I found one today in Key West Fl., I was drawn to it by the rotting smell, and could not believe it came from such a oddly beautiful mass.

Unknown said...

Saw one in our parking lot at work, kind of reminded me of COVID.

Unknown said...

Today is the 2nd time in my yard and another time seen behind the back gate. Maybe the conditions are perfect in Tampa, FL? Perfect covid analogy

Kleonizzy said...

Oh MY GOODNESS! THIS IS THE SECOND ONE,GROWING IN MY FLOWER BED!! I live in St. Petersburg, Florida, so whoever let this monster loose in Florida has a lot to answer for!!! When I first moved here in 2017 I came across this disgusting fungus and kicked it, I'm not sure why now that I think about it.. That was a really BAD move because all its innards got on my shoe!! I was SO GROSSED OUT, AND KINDA SCARED!! I could not imagine who had put this rotting raccoon guts in my flowers!!!
I described it to just about everyone I saw, cause I was thinking it came from outer space!!! Someone said it was probably one of those red net bags that cheese comes in. NOT!!!! I honestly was freaked, but it disappeared...Well, guess what is growing in the same exact place today?!!! I am SO GRATEFUL FOR YOUR WEBSITE!! Devil Spawn indeed!!!

Unknown said...

Ive had one under my bamboo , but may have derived from the cypress leylandi previously in situ ,for 6 or 7 years , always wondered what it was , know i know ! apparently rare in the UK !
Brighton England

Doanh Doanh said...

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