Last summer, after a particularly rich layer of mulch was deposited at the local park, something weird happened. They looked innocuous at first — pink, pointy, distinctively phallic.
Then came the smell. I believe ‘rotting meat’ or ‘oh god the world is ending’ is a most accurate description. I had never seen such a thing.
We avoided the park for several weeks until the impressive colony of unbelievably stinky mystery shrooms withered away and the air was breathable again.
Recently a particularly cute specimen of a related fungus did the rounds, and, while reading about this astonishing mushroom, I finally learned that the mystery stink-penis-shaped-horror in the park was Phallus rubicundus, a species of stinkhorn that loves growing on mulch and, like the rest of its wild and colourful family, gives off a powerful odour.
The smelly stuff emitted by stinkhorns comes from the sticky goo located at the tips, containing the spores needed to propagate the mushroom. The stench, attributed to the chemical compound putrescine (can this get any better?) attracts flies, which stop around in the sticky mess, and in turn help spread the spores further, where they can grow into more stinky little penises. Thanks, flies.