Stinkhorns: The fungus kicking up a stink on Aussie lawns right now

Have you seen these popping up?

Some Aussies have been left scratching their heads after waking to an odd sight on their lawns: stinkhorns.

Although stinkhorn fungi look like they are from Mars, they are not poisonous, and touching or handling them is safe.

However, you might think twice about going near them thanks to their rotting odour. They are also described as being quite slimy.

What are stinkhorns?

As the Botanic Gardens of Sydney explains: “As the weather continues to cool, more #fungi are popping up around Australia. Here are two species kicking up a stink.

“Octopus Stinkhorn (Anthurus archeri): This species is also commonly referred to as “devil’s fingers” and, once mature, can often smell like rotten fish.  

“Anemone Stinkhorn (Aseroe rubra) – The first fungus scientifically described in Australia and collected in 1792. It is found from southern Queensland to Tasmania and has spread to Europe and North America.  

“Both fungi produce a brown stinky substance on their “tentacles” which produce the smell of decayed flesh (and sometimes fish) to attract flies and other insects.  

“These mushrooms are NOT harmful to people or pets and decay quickly. The Botanic Gardens reiterates.”

stinkhorn fungi

Which regions are stinkhorn fungi most commonly spotted?  

Stinkhorns are most commonly found in regions with warm, humid conditions, particularly in forested areas and gardens with rich organic matter. They thrive in moist, shaded environments and often emerge after heavy rains. 

What should homeowners do if they find stinkhorn fungi in their garden?  

Homeowners do not necessarily need to remove stinkhorn fungi from their gardens, as they play a beneficial role in breaking down organic matter and enriching the soil. However, if the smell is bothersome or if there are concerns about pets or children interacting with them, they can be removed.  

To remove stinkhorns, you can dig up the entire fungus, including the underground ‘egg’ structure, and dispose of it in a sealed bag to prevent spores from spreading. 

Why do stinkhorn fungi emit such a strong, unpleasant odour?  

The firm, unpleasant odour of stinkhorn fungi serves an important purpose in their lifecycle. The smell mimics that of decaying organic matter, attracting flies and other insects. These insects feed on the spore-covered slime on the stinkhorn and inadvertently help disperse the spores to new locations, aiding in the reproduction and spread of the fungi. 


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