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Weird and Wonderful Fungi

A couple of weird and wonderful fungi recently appeared in the garden, and I had never before seen either type. In fact, these things looked more like creatures from the depths of the ocean rather than something growing out of the grass. It took some research to find out what they were.

The first one is Clathrus columnatus, also called column stinkhorn.

It has been found in Africa, Costa Rica in Central America, in China and in Hawaii. In North America it is distributed from Mexico to New York, though it is found less commonly where I live in the southeastern United States.

The red color caught my attention, and the fungus reminded me of the tentacles of an octopus. The mature fungus produces a foul odor that attracts insects that aid in distributing its spores. Column stinkhorn is a beneficial organism, helping to break down organic matter and making their nutrients available for the soil. Despite early reports of poisoning, American mycologist Orson K. Miller, Jr. lists the species as edible.

The second unusual fungus, found the same day as the column stinkhorn, is Ramaria formosa, also called the beautiful clavaria, as well as the yellow-tipped or pink coral fungus. It also is beneficial for the soil.

This fungus is found in Asia, Europe and North America. It is poisonous, but it looks similar to Ramaria flava, an edible fungus that grows in Europe.

These were a fun find, especially now that autumn is fading, and a reminder for me to keep my eyes open. We never know what we may discover in a garden!

You may also enjoy my previous post,  Stump World.

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Reader Comments (18)

I've never seen either of those - both so unique! We'll have to keep our eyes open around here!

December 6, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterChristi {Jealous Hands}

You are good! I found some unique fungi up at the cottage yesterday, and I can't seem to ID them. I'll keep searching, but they'll both be part of my wordless December anyway. These fungi you highlight are fascinating! In another life, I think I was a mycologist. ;-)

December 6, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterBeth @ PlantPostings

Weird isn't strong enough a word, Deb! What's going on in your part of the country to encourage these fungi to appear? I suspect it has something to do with rain - that's still a foreign concept here but we're told El Nino's rains are coming (some day).

December 6, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterKris P

Wow, what amazing fungus! I guess the wind has brought spores from far away into your garden and resulted in these two. It will be exciting to see if they survive and come again or if they die during winter.

December 6, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterHelene

Dear Deb, these fungi certainly catch your attention. It always amazes me with what nature comes up! The red one I have never seen, but I remember that I found a fungi very similar to the yellow one (or maybe it even was the same!) in the woods in Germany.
Warm regards,

December 7, 2015 | Unregistered Commenterchristina

Fascinating! I wish I were better at fungi. I went on a fungus foray a couple of years ago. Loads of fungi were found. I can remember about two of them and that's only because they were the most toxic of all our finds!

December 7, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterSarah Shoesmith

Fascinating shape, love the interesting photos and the really wonderful colors. I need to take more time to look into fungi, explore this whole sub-world.

December 7, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterCharlie@Seattle Trekker

Column stinkhorn is unlike anything I've ever seen before. Fascinating.

December 7, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJean

Amazing! Isn't nature wonderful?

December 8, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterDenise

What odd looking discoveries! The first one really does look like the tentacles of an octopus and the second like coral. They look as though they have risen from some primordial ocean.

December 8, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer

We used to be regular mushroom hunters when we lived in the UK and found many strange and exotic fungi but I've never seen the Column stinkhorn before and I don't even remember it being in any of the books we have.

December 9, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterChristina

Wonderful post, Deb. Like Beth, I think I was a mycologist in a previous life. Are they very blown up? I found some red fungi recently and they were the size of a pinhead. Apparently fungi id can be very tricky.

December 9, 2015 | Unregistered Commentercatmint

did you try, the edible one?

December 10, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterDiana Studer

Great post. That Stinkhorn would provide quite a jolt if I were to see it unexpectedly.

December 10, 2015 | Unregistered Commenterjason

Hi everyone! Thank you all for your comments. To answer a couple of questions: Catmint, these are close-ups, but not blown up much. Both are about 3 inches (7.6 cm) tall. And Diana, I did not eat the one reported to be edible. I am no mycologist, and I have a policy of never eating wild fungi. Best wises! Deb

December 12, 2015 | Registered CommenterDeborah Elliott

Weird! Those are some unusual looking ones! Very cool! I haven't noticed too many unusual looking ones in my yard - just the usual suspects. :)

December 12, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterIndie

Deb, I think those fungi were so interesting! They certainly are bizarre looking, especially the stinkhorn. I've never seen anything like that - very cool! I'm sure it must mean that you have a very healthy garden with lots of organic matter don't you think?


December 14, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterKate R

OH these are so cool....I have never seen these in my garden.

December 19, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterDonna@Gardens Eye View

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