Garden Fungi – Phallus rubicundus

Phallus rubicundus

(© V Ryan)

Phallus rubicundus

Spore mass washed off. (© V Ryan)

Phallus rubicundus egg

Phallus rubicundus egg. (© V Ryan)

Phallus rubicundus egg cut in half

Egg cut in half. (© V Ryan)

These macro-fungi are true “Stinkhorns”, so named because the spore bearing mass, the gleba, is a brownish slime with a “rotting meat” smell. Flies and insects are drawn to the smell of the gleba, and very rapidly remove all traces of it, so spreading the spores. Stinkhorns are usually quite colourful and can be phallic shaped, have arms or even form a net-like structure.
Queensland Health and the EPA list this fungus as a Toxic Category 2.
Fruit-body: Phallus rubicundus is a thin, orange-pinkish-red phallic-shaped body, topped with a slightly thickened head that is initially covered with the gleba. Sometimes an “egg” or a cluster of “eggs” is noticed. Eggs are white, up to 25 mm in diameter and have white mycelium strands (rhizomorphs) at the base. When the egg splits, the fruit-body emerges. Initially it stands erect, but it rapidly shrivels and sags.
Stem: The stem is an orange-pinkish-red mottled colour, up to 150 mm in height and 15 mm in diameter. Part of the egg can remain as a white volva at the stem base.
Spore print: None, as the spores are in the brown slimy spore mass, the gleba.
Smell: Usually described as foetid, like rotting meat.
Habit: Can occur as a single fruit-body or in clusters after rain.
Notes: In December 2007 through to January 2008, vast numbers were seen in the grounds of the Moggill State School. Smaller numbers were seen at the same site in 2008/09.