Thursday, May 19, 2011

Clathrus ruber

Invasion of the Body Snatchers!! These have been popping up all over my yard this year, probably due to all the mulch I have added over the last year. I thought I had a dead critter in the yard but it turns out it was this stinky son-of-a-gun!

Family:Phallaceae •
Genus:Clathrus •
Species:ruber •
Country of Origin: Northern Africa, Asia, Australia, and North and South America •
Synonyms: Clathrus flavescens Pers. (1801) Clathrus cancellatus Tourn. ex Fr. (1823)
Clathrus nicaeensis Barla (1879) Clathrus ruber var. flavescens (Pers.) Quadr. & Lunghini (1990)
Common Names: Latticed Stinkhorn, Basket Stinkhorn, Red Cage •

Clathrus ruber is a species of fungus in the stinkhorn family, and the type species of the genus Clathrus. It is commonly known as the latticed stinkhorn, the basket stinkhorn, or the red cage, alluding to the striking fruit bodies that are shaped somewhat like a round or oval hollow sphere with interlaced or latticed branches. The fungus is saprobic, feeding off decaying woody plant material, and is usually found alone or in groups in leaf litter on garden soil, grassy places, or on wood-chip garden mulches ("Clathrus ruber," 2011)

The fruit body initially appears like a whitish "egg" attached to the ground at the base by cords called rhizomorphs. The egg has a delicate, leathery outer membrane enclosing the compressed lattice that surrounds a layer of olive-green spore-bearing slime called the gleba, which contains high levels of calcium that help protect the developing fruit body during development. As the egg ruptures and the fruit body expands, the gleba is carried upward on the inner surfaces of the spongy lattice, and the egg membrane remains as a volva around the base of the structure. The fruit body can reach heights of up to 20 cm (7.9 in). The color of the fruit body, which can range from pink to orange to red, results primarily from the carotenoid pigments lycopene and beta-carotene. The gleba has a fetid odor, somewhat like rotting meat, which attracts flies and other insects to help disperse its spores ("Clathrus ruber," 2011)

Since the appearance of these indicates excellent microbial activity, I'm thrilled about them popping up even if they do stink!

Sources:Clathrus ruber. (2011, March 17). Retrieved from

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Steve said...

Thanks for all that great info. We found one in our yard in Key West today.
Do you know anything regarding the toxicity of these fungi? are they dangerous to dogs, cats or other animals?

I likE plants! said...

This excerpt is from Wikipedia:
Although edibility for C. ruber has not been officially documented, its foul smell would dissuade most individuals from consuming it. In general, stinkhorn mushrooms are considered edible when still in the egg stage, and are even considered delicacies in some parts of Europe and Asia, where they are pickled raw and sold in markets as "devil's eggs". However, an 1854 report provides a cautionary tale to those considering consuming the mature fruit body. Dr. F. Peyre Porcher, of Charleston, South Carolina, described an account of poisoning caused by the mushroom:

"A young person having eaten a bit of it, after six hours suffered from a painful tension of the lower stomach, and violent convulsions. He lost the use of his speech, and fell into a state of stupor, which lasted for forty-eight hours. After taking an emetic he threw up a fragment of the mushroom, with two worms, and mucus, tinged with blood. Milk, oil, and emollient fomentations, were then employed with success."

British mycologist Donald Dring, in his 1980 monograph on the Clathraceae family, wrote that C. ruber was not regarded highly in southern European folklore. He mentions a case of poisoning following its ingestion, reported by Barla in 1858, and notes that Ciro Pollini reported finding it growing on a human skull in a tomb in a deserted church. According to John Ramsbottom, Gascons consider the mushroom a cause of cancer; they will usually bury specimens they find. In other parts of France it has been reputed to produce skin rashes or cause convulsions.

As is stated the smell would deter most humans, but animals may be curious because it smells like rotting flesh. They aren't harmful to your garden and actually may be beneficial, but you may want to remove them if you worry about your pets getting into them.