New Timelapse Captures Life Cycle of Foul-Smelling Mushroom

Scientists have recently documented the fascinating birth and decay of a distinctively-shaped mushroom notorious for its pungent odor. The mushroom in question is the visible part of a stinkhorn fungus known as Phallus impudicus. It typically grows near decaying wood and plants, extending up to 10 inches above the ground. The cap of the stem is covered in olive-brown slime called gleba, which is responsible for the unmistakable stench emitted by the mushroom.

According to the University of Florida, the smell of stinkhorns has been likened to decomposing flesh, rotting feces, and sewage. Despite its repulsive aroma, the stinkhorn mushroom is indeed edible. When consumed in its egg state, the flavor of the common stinkhorn is said to resemble hazelnuts.

The stinkhorn fungus emerges from a small, egg-shaped base buried in the soil and anchored to the ground by white filaments. This base contains a slime and spore-filled mass that eventually develops into the foul-smelling cap of the mushroom.

In a captivating video, researchers managed to capture the entire lifecycle of the stinkhorn mushroom within three hours. Initially, the mushroom emerges from its base and rapidly grows to its full size. Flies are quickly drawn to the gleba and feast on the slime for around 10 hours, removing the olive-brown covering. Over the next few days, the remaining white body, known as a “corpse finger,” begins to decompose before ultimately toppling over. The footage concludes with the fruiting body decomposing and dissipating back into the soil.

This short-lived lifecycle allows stinkhorns to complete their reproductive cycle. The cap of the mushroom contains spores, which flies and other invertebrates ingest as they consume the slime. These spores are then dispersed in new locations through the excrement of these creatures. This novel strategy sets stinkhorn fungi apart from most other mushroom-forming fungi, which disperse spores by releasing them into the air.

The remarkable timelapse video was shared by the government forestry office for the Soest-Sauerland region of eastern Germany. It took three weeks to capture the footage, with the researchers patiently waiting for the stinkhorn to develop and checking the camera regularly. The video provides a mesmerizing view of the life cycle and unique reproductive strategy of the stinkhorn mushroom.

– University of Florida
– Regionalforstamt Soest-Sauerland via Facebook