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.