Friday, January 11, 2019

Cute Little Stinker

First, Mark Bower sent me this photograph of a slime mold.  He has a knack for finding beauty in slime molds but this one is rather boring until you find the spider.  Click to enlarge the image and join the search.  The answer is at the bottom of the page.

Clathrus ruber -Mike Hall
Meanwhile, I received this photograph from Mike Hall in California.  This is a fungus which mimics a spray painted wiffle ball.  Mark Bower provided me this link to the Clathrus ruber.  It is native to Turkey and Europe but has been introduced by human activity to North and South America, probably in mulch with other plants.

Devil's Stinkhorn-Phallus rubicundus-MB
This is a colorful way to introduce the subject of the stinkhorn fungi in the family Phallaceae.  The name derives from the Greek phallos which means.....well since this is a family blog let's just say most of the members are finger shaped.  Stinkhorn mushrooms come by their name honestly, as when they age they produce an odor that would gag a maggot.  The odor, typically described as like carrion or dung, is produced by the sticky mass of spores (gleba) located on the end of a finger-like stalk called the receptaculum.

Stinkhorns first emerge from the soil from a round structure referred to as an egg.  A few species are star or lattice shaped but all I have seen in Missouri are on a single stalk. 

This Lysurus periphragmoides emerged from.....

.... this "egg"  - Mark Bower

Mutinus elegans or caninus - MB

“Stinky Squid” (Pseudocolus fuciformis)-MB

Unlike most fungi whose spores drop from gills or pores, stinkhorns' spores are in the gelatenous gleba at the tip.  The foul odor attracts flies, beetles and other insects which pick up the spores on their feet and haul them off to other fertile sites.

Our Clathrus ruber has a colorful history described in Wikipedia.  This includes finding it growing on "a human skull in a tomb in a deserted church" and several poisonings when eaten in spite of the odor.  Apparently there are places in Asia and Europe where stinkhorns are considered delicacies when they are picked in the egg state and sold pickled as deviled eggs.  As my mother used to say, "Each to his own taste the woman said as she kissed her cow."

Now back to the spider test up at the top of the page.  Find the little yellow arrow below and then see the spider closeup.

And here it is.