Monday, 26 April 2021

A fun guy to be around - stinkhorn mushrooms

 An old varsity friend had this joke:

"What do you call a mushroom in a bar?"

"A fun guy (fungi) to be around."

Haha haha

It comes to mind every time I see mushrooms or read/say the word fungi. Which is often.

At the beginning of April, I spotted THIS next to a trail:

A Google search for 'smelly fungus' led me to the discovery of the family of stinkhorn mushrooms.

This one pictured is Clathrus archeri (aka Anthurus archeri, Devil's Fingers). It is a soil fungus from a family commonly known as stinkhorn mushrooms. They like to grow near woody debris, in lawns, gardens, and forests. It has a job in the composting cycle where it breaks down plant litter to humus.

It emerges from an egg-like sac and has 4-7 arms. The olive-brown goo is known as gleba. This is actually spore-bearing tissue. It smells like poo and attracts flies that land on this gloop and then off they go spreading the spores.

This fungus is apparently short-lived, although none of the sites give any timeline for its initial emergence and demise. They seem to wither within 48hrs.

I was fairly certain that my first sighting was Clathrus archeri and not a similar relative Aseroe rubra because of the shape of the arms, distribution of the gleba and it lacks a stem. BUT, one website I found says that C. archeri does not have bifurcated arms like A. rubra - and this one of mine has bifurcation at the end of each arm.

And then, yesterday, look at what I found... Aseroe rubra! (aka sea anemone or starfish fungus)

This A. rubra is smaller with bifurcated arms, a standy-up stem and the gleba located centrally and not spread along the arms as with C. archeri.

The two are very different so I'm very happy with my original identification.

According to Wiki, A. rubra is native to Australia and its presence in South Africa and Kenya is currently unexplained.

I'm seeing loads of fungi in the forests here - most growing on logs and branches. Different colours, sizes and shapes. I find them absolutely delightful but I haven't got a clue as to what any of them are. Time to get a fungus book!

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