A fungus, usually of the family phallaceae, but not exclusively. The common stinkhorn, phallus impudicus is probably the rudest looking fungus to grow in the UK, with its visible fruiting body resembling an erect male member, explaining both its Latin and English names. The 'stink' part of the name comes from the fact that they really do smell bad. The odour is somewhere between rotting flesh and fresh dog faeces. The smell attracts flies which trample about on its sticky head, picking up spores on their feet and kindly distributing them around for the fungus.

"Pray, what was Nature thinking of when she made this? She almost put herself on a level with those who draw in privies." - Henry Thoreau

The common stinkhorn is found mainly in woodland where it grows from rotting wood and leaves. You usually smell it well before you see it. The pungency is pretty impressive, even we olfactory challenged humans can smell one from tens of metres away. The 'horn' of the stinkhorn is just the fruiting body of the fungus, the rest of the organism remains unseen below ground. It grows surprisingly quickly, often emerging from its egg-like sack in a matter of hours.

Despite being mildly poisonous the stinkhorn has been considered an aphrodisiac, though this was probably based on the shape alone. The effects of consuming stinkhorn are varied and colourful; dizziness and vertigo, impaired vision, vomitting, diarrhoea, dry cough, fever and deep red urine. There have been reports that the fermented juice of the stinkhorn has anti-cancer properties and has apparently been used in Eastern-European counties for many years.

The less common Latticed Stinkhorn (Clathrus cancellatus) is a far more attractive stinkhorn. From its egg sack it produces a spherical net of material, rather than a horn. From the cap of the Veiled Stinkhorn (Dictyophora duplicata) grows a mesh resembling a hexagonal net. This mesh reaches down to the base of the horn. Whilst visibly attractive both of these fungi still stink.


Stink"horn` (?), n. Bot.

A kind of fungus of the genus Phallus, which emits a fetid odor.


© Webster 1913.

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