P&PDL Picture of the Week for
September 28, 2009

Stinkhorn Mushrooms

Gail Ruhl, Senior Plant Disease Diagnostician, Purdue University

Unsightly and smelly are appropriate words to describe the ‘finger-shaped’ mushrooms popping up in yards, flowerbeds and even cornfields. The mushroom is known as a stinkhorn and like other fungal decomposers, stinkhorns live on decaying plant material. A stinkhorn grows within an enclosed structure or membrane that looks similar to an egg. When the developing fungus expands, the "egg" breaks open, revealing the young mushroom-like fungus, which at that time is usually odorless. Following full expansion, the spore-bearing surface begins to break down, and the spores become immersed in a dark-colored gel-like, foul smelling mass. Hence the name, stinkhorn! This spore mass is attractive to flies, which pick up spores as they walk over the surface of the mushroom. The spores are then carried with the flies to new areas. Additional information on Stinkhorns.

Also be on the look-out for gigantic puffballs as they become more evident this time of year.

Click image to enlarge

Stinkhorn Mushroom "Egg"
Photo by Peggy Sellers

Stinkhorn Mushroom
Photo by Karen Rane

Stinkhorn mushrooms in corn field
Photo by Marty Park


Purdue Plant & Pest Diagnostic Lab Purdue Cooperative Extension Service