by , Ranger
Greg Dodge is a professional naturalist as well as a writer, videographer and producer of natural history DVDs. His images have been used in various TV productions, museum displays, and corporate videos. Above all, he has a fascination and passion for all things natural.
Stop by and say hello Tuesday thru Saturday in Explore the Wild, Catch the Wind, or on the Dino Trail.

The Mysterious Red Tubular Growth

June 3rd, 2010

The voice on the radio (Animal Department Director, Sherry Samuels) said that there was a cluster of strange, red, tube-like fungi growing out of the ground next to the Lemur House and wondered if I knew what it was.

stinkhorn

One of the many strange growths growing in the leaf litter next to the the Lemur House (approx. 4″ tall).

I said that I didn’t know what it was but would stop by and have a look at them later.

It was a few days before I finally made it to the site and, after having a look at the horn-shaped growths and agreeing that they were obviously some sort of fungus, I still didn’t know exactly what they were.

Some of them were “wilted” and laying on the ground while others appeared fresh, if fungus can be termed as being fresh.

stinkhorn

Some of the growths were obviously gone by while others appeared to be new growth.

I happen to have an identification guide to mushrooms and after a quick browse through the many photos in the book I was able to come up with a match, Elegant Stinkhorn (Mutinus elegans).

The visible “horns” of this stinkhorn are the spore bearing stems. Just below the leaf litter are “eggs” from which the stems “hatch.”

stinkhorn

An egg (fruit body) on the left and a fully emerged horn (stem).

stinkhorn egg

A stem breaking out of its egg.

The eggs, according to my mushroom guide’s author, are edible, “…but not recommended.” I don’t think that I’ll be tempted to try them regardless.

Case closed.

There’s nothing like a good mystery to start off the week!

Six days after the case of the stinkhorns, I came across a more typical member of that strange group of organisms (not animal, not plant) growing under a dogwood near the entrance to the Dinosaur Trail.

parasol mushroom

This tall, lean mushroom (approx. 12″ tall) was growing under a small Flowering Dogwood next to the Parasaurolophus on the Dinosaur Trail.

I’m not certain about the identity of this mushroom, but think that it’s a Parasol Mushroom (Lepiota procera). The height, scaling on the cap, and season (June-October) as well as other features seem right for the species, but I’m not positive. My guide says that in regard to the identity of Parasol Mushrooms ”smell is important and should be noted” but it doesn’t say exactly what that smell should be, only that it’s “slight, not distinctive.” I guess you have to be a connoisseur of mushrooms to understand what that means.

parasol mushroom

The following day the parasol opened. The small ring below the cap, or parasol, is supposed to be movable up and down the stem on this species. I didn’t learn that until after the fact and didn’t try to move it (it looks like it could slide up and down the stem).

I’m not recommending this or any other mushroom be consumed, but according to my guide, Parasol Mushrooms are rated as “excellent” for edibility with a “sweet” in the taste category. Again, I’m not going to eat one of these mushrooms and don’t recommend that you do either, just quoting my guide.

The guide that I used for the identifications of the stinkhorn and parasol (if that’s what it is) is Mushrooms of North America, by Roger Phillips. It’s a large format book and not really suited for work in the field (it won’t fit into your pocket), but it has over a thousand photos and extensive descriptions of the many mushrooms included within its pages.

Happy hunting.

Join the conversation:

  1. How fascinating! And elegant!

    Posted by Erin Brown
  2. Thanks for figuring this out for me and sharing it with everyone Greg.

    Posted by Sherry
  3. Ranger Comment :

    Thanks Erin.
    It is indeed fascinating…all of the little mysteries of nature that are out there waiting to be discovered.

    Posted by Greg Dodge, Ranger
  4. Ranger Comment :

    You’re welcome, Sherry. Thanks for pointing them out to me!

    Posted by Greg Dodge, Ranger
  5. Eureka! I just discovered one of these today along our driveway. Strangely, it’s not a very moist environment, barring the fact that we’ve had a really wet spring. Our stinkhorn was brilliant orange, just like a carrot and there were several bottle flies crawling on it. I snapped a couple photos before it was ultimately destroyed by some construction activity. Thanks so much! I searched “strange tubular fungus” and here you were!!

    Posted by Keri
  6. Ranger Comment :

    Good, glad you were able to figure it out.
    One of our Rangers (Erin) here at the Museum found one last week as well. There was one above ground and another about to “hatch,” but unfortunately, I think it was trampled on. It was right next to one of the trails here with heavy traffic.
    Have a good one,

    Posted by Greg Dodge
  7. I also want to thank you. I found a group of four of these mushrooms in my front yard flower bed and was mustified! I Googled tubulat mushroom and “whaaLaa!” your photos and explanations came up. Must also mention that there is a very heavy mucklike smell that is almost sickening to these mushrooms. Maybe that is where they got their name:Stinkhorn. Dennis Dotson

    Posted by Dennis Dotson
  8. Ranger Comment :

    Thanks for the comments Dennis.
    And yes, the smell is the reason for the stinkhorn part of its name.

    Posted by Greg Dodge
  9. Thank you!! I found a stinkhorn in my back yard and was totally mystified… my son found your blog or I would still be wondering.

    Posted by Gayla Rihaly
  10. Ranger Comment :

    Good, good, glad you found us.
    Thanks,

    Posted by Greg Dodge
  11. I just found a couple of their “eggs” behind the duck yard. They’ve been sitting on my desk the last couple of days waiting for you to come back to work. It started to “hatch” this morning. I remembered you did a post about odd looking smelly red fungus and now I don’t need to save the juicy smelly red things for you to ID. Thanks Greg!

    Posted by Sarah
  12. Ranger Comment :

    Always a pleasure.
    Thanks,

    Posted by Greg Dodge
  13. is the Tubular Red Fungas toxic to dogs if they come in contact wioth it or eat one? How do I get ried of them?

    Posted by cynthia
  14. Ranger Comment :

    I could find no reference stating that this fungus is toxic to dogs. In fact, most references say that it is not toxic and is of little concern to dog owners who worry that their dog will eat the stinkhorns and become ill.
    The fungus with wither, dry up and disappear on its own. It you want to hurry the process and dig it up, go ahead, make sure you get the “eggs” beneath the surface.
    Good luck!!

    Posted by Greg Dodge
  15. I RECENTLY SAW THE “STINK HORN” GROWING IN A RATHER SUNNY PLACE GLAD SOME ONE HAS GIVEN IT A NAME. FEW PEOPLE JUST LAUGHED WHEN i TRIED TO DESCRIBE IT. MINE APPEARED TO BE WET AND IT WAS A DRY AREA. ALSO HAVE LOTS OF EARTH STAR MUSHROOMS around .

    Posted by CAROLYN JONES
  16. Ranger Comment :

    Good, I’m glad you were able to figure out the identity of the stinkhorn.
    They will laugh no more! Well, maybe.
    Thanks,

    Posted by Greg Dodge
  17. i found a stinkhorn in my yard, i was wondering how can I get rid of it?

    Posted by jessy sandel
  18. Ranger Comment :

    You could leave it be and it will eventually go away. Or, you could take a shovel and turn over the dirt where it’s growing. Turn over the dirt several times until the stinkhorn is completely chopped into small pieces, diced.
    Thanks,

    Posted by Greg Dodge

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