A big phallic mushroom recently put on quite a show in eastern Germany, where its short life cycle was captured on camera. The fruiting body of the stinkhorn fungus, Phallus impudicus, it looks as NSFW as its species name would have you assume, and the video is really something.
The starring mushroom is the visible part of a fungus that lives underground as a spindly hidden network for most of the year. When the time is right, balls the size of a chicken egg start to form near the soil surface, until a remarkably phallic mushroom bursts out from within.
The mushroom’s similarities to a penis aren’t helped by the fact that these balls hang around, sometimes appearing to complete the set of human genitalia. Their suspicious emergence has earned them the nickname “devil’s eggs,” and when they’re ready to pop, they do so in a way that’s audible to the human ear. According to 18th-century French botanist Pierre Bulliard, the sound of the mature fungus emerging from the devil’s eggs is comparable to a “pistol shot,” reports the University Of Oxford.
Looking like gonads hasn’t put everyone off the fungus’s fruiting bodies, however, as in some places the eggs are consumed as delicacies thought to act like an aphrodisiac. You might be less turned on by the idea when you hear about the mushroom’s slime-covered cap, however.
When the intimidating mushroom bursts forth at a rate of 1 to 15 centimeters (0.4 to 5.9 inches) per hour, it’s covered in a green-brown jelly that’s stuffed full of spores. It apparently tastes sweet but smells like rotting corpses. Enough to turn the stomach of most humans, but it’s an adaptation that helps the fungus disperse its spores as carrion-feeding flies and other invertebrates can’t get enough of the stuff.
As they zoom in on their meal, sitting atop just the tip of the phallic shroom, they get coated in that green-brown slime and carry it with them when they leave. Hey presto, stinkhorn, you’ve successfully dispersed.
The footage of a stinkhorn mushroom’s short but impressive life cycle was captured by Regionalforstamt Soest-Sauerland, a government forestry office in Germany, and shared on Facebook. In it, we see the stinky by name, stinky by nature mushroom erecting and attracting a whole load of flies, before collapsing down in a flaccid heap.
A defeated posture, but a victorious one as the stinkhorn’s spores will be dispersed through the feces of the invertebrates that wriggled over its sticky cap, going forth to erect further phallic fruiting bodies that reek of decaying corpses across the forest floor. Isn’t nature beautiful?
[H/T: Live Science]