Stinkhorn Shrooms

by Josh on August 18, 2006 · 3 comments

in Gardens,Uncategorized

Stinkhorn mushroomI suspect most yards have at least one moist shady area that grows mushrooms from time to time. But I’m sure the nasty, phallic-looking, foul-smelling ‘shrooms you see here are not an every lawn occurrence.

Meet the stinkhorns. Like the worst kind of houseguest they show up unannounced, overstay their welcome, and foul up the place while they linger. And no matter how clearly you try to convey that you don’t want them around, they keep coming back. Oh, and they smell like feces. Bonus!

As the name suggests, Stinkhorns (Phallus Impudicus) are a stalk shaped mushroom with a pungent slime cap. The smell of the mushrooms attracts flies which then spread the spores from the slime cap to new areas. Stinkhorns grow on rotting wood, like the free woodchips available in Minneapolis parks when trees are cut down. Some of these woodchips were used in the landscaping for the house and I’m sure that is how the mushroom spores first came to our house.

Stinkhorn pods Here I’ve brushed back the surface of the mulch to show a colony of stinkhorn eggs preparing for their day in the sun. I’ve had some success reducing the severity of the stinkhorn outbreaks by trying to dig them up before the eggs hatch– while they look like this and don’t smell. But I’ll fill a grocery bag with these fungi and still get mushrooms in my mulch the very next day. I’m sure I would have better luck if I disposed of any potentially contaminated mulch, but that would be a lot of mulch to replace, and it still might not solve the problem. Soil grading and adjusting the plants and fencing to allow more air and light would also need to be part of my stinkhorn deterence.

So until I get around to redoing half the backyard fence and landscaping, I’m trying to dig up the stinkhorns before they erupt, and hold my nose while I’m at it.

Even if I can manage the stink, can I escape the stinkhorn’s bad mojo? Check out this quote from a Harvard University Press article on stinkhorns that might be of particular interest to my victorian houseblog friends:

Imagine a well-bred person of the Victorian era finding in the woods a phallic-looking object with a green cap, covered with flies, and emanating an unspeakable stench. Small wonder the sight inspired strange beliefs. Stinkhorns have been associated with all manner of misery and mischief. They have been called devil’s eggs (“Daemonum ova”) and have been blamed for witchcraft, cholera epidemics, and untold other disasters….

If you hear that I departed this world lashed to a burning stake, you’ll know where my troubles started.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Shauna August 18, 2006 at 1:48 pm

Eeeewww, that sounds really gross, Josh.

I’ve got fairy rings in my yard, but not those, thankfully. Maybe they don’t appear this far north.
I imagine it puts a damper on outdoor entertaining. I’d be getting rid of that mulch for sure.
Would adding lime or sand to the soil help any, I wonder?


kk August 18, 2006 at 9:18 pm

Wow — I had toyed with the idea of picking up some of the free mulch at one point — but considering our entire yard is shaded (though well-draining sand), you’ve just talked me out of it!


Josh August 20, 2006 at 10:47 pm

I don’t know about lime as a fungal treatment. I made some calls to garden stores about fungicide and they didn’t have any suggestions.

I’m convinced the problem is in the woodchips themselves. They are ground too finely and made from species more prone to rotting than the cypress used in conventional mulch.


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