Wednesday 17 October 2012

Veiled Lady

Image: Shashidhara halady
Well, now. At least one Stinkhorn is trying to preserve its dignity. Sort of.

"Veiled Lady" is usually one of a whole host of common names reserved for one particular mushroom called Phallus indusiatus. It's a Stinkhorn and a Phallus, which means it's a close relative of our very own, slightly embarrassing, Common Stinkhorn (P. impudicus).

Image: Ajaykuyiloor
There is, however, one unmistakeable difference. Our Veiled Lady is nowhere near as disgracefully impudent as its lowly, Common relatives. As if to spare our blushes, a beautiful, lacy veil is draped over the central obscenity.

Unfortunately it renders the whole thing all the more eye-catching and intriguing. It would have been better if they'd just put a brown paper bag over the top. As it is, we now have a Phallus up to 25 cm (9.8 in) tall and wearing lingerie.

Image: Peter Kuttner
P. indusiatus can be found all across the tropics, from Africa to Asia to America. It is easily confused with several other skirted Stinkhorns...

Image: Noah Siegel
P. merulinus
P. merulinus, for example, looks similar but has a smoother cap.

Image: Milo
P. duplicatus
P. duplicatus has a shorter skirt.

Image: Tim Adams
P. multicolor
P. multicolor eventually reveals itself to be bright yellow! And there are more besides.

Of course, they are all Stinkhorns so no matter how seductively dressed they may be, they still stink!

Smells so bad even the camera's eye is watering

The top is covered in the usual sticky, dark olive gleba. It stinks of faeces or rotting meat so as to attract flies who are into that sort of thing. Even the skirt itself may serve as an added attraction to insects who find the smell "OK but not all that great". As they crawl over the nastiness, spores stick to their feet and are carried away to pastures new, pastures clean and pure, pastures who have no need of this "modern art" with all its... body parts.

Some pastures "engage" with their anatomy just fine and don't need to "look at it in a new way" by dressing it up in juxtapositional finery to "challenge our preconceptions" and "ask questions" of our bits and bobs.

Image: dhobern via Flickr
Other Stinkhorns, like P. indusiatus, are white once the flies have finished with the gleba. It's like someone's getting married! Or is it the honeymoon?

Image: ressaure via Flickr
A Common Stinkhorn attempts to distinguish itself
Oddly enough, some of the more upwardly mobile Common Stinkhorns also have a veil. They are a variant called Phallus impudicus var. togatus and while their success is variable, it's nice to see a socially ambitious mushroom once in a while.


TexWisGirl said...

i just have nothing to say... :)

Joseph JG said...

Ha! That's probably for the best!

Anonymous said...

In spite of its phallic look, this seems to be a beautiful "monstrosity" Love the veil. Seems a shame to have it crawing with insects.

Joseph JG said...

It does seem a bit of a shame, but I guess it's the whole purpose of the endeavour. Butterflies get enough attention showered on them already, nice that someone appreciates the flies!

Anonymous said...

Wow, I have never seen this before...

Joseph JG said...

You probably won't forget it, either!