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Clathrus columnatus

[ Agaricomycetes > Phallales > Phallaceae > Clathrus . . . ]

by Michael Kuo

Like other stinkhorns, Clathrus columnatus arises from a partially submerged "egg" that is attached to the ground with long cords. There is no stem; two to five hollow "arms" reach upwards, out of the egg, and join at the top--almost like columns that are prepared to hold something aloft. The inner surfaces of the arms are covered with stinkhorn slime, which has a foul odor and attracts flies; this is the mushroom's method for dispersing spores.

Clathrus columnatus is particularly common along the Gulf Coast, where it often appears in urban settings (lawns, gardens, and so on). It is fond of woody debris, and frequently appears in woodchip mulch. It is not limited to the southeast, however; I have found it in central Illinois, and it has been reported as far north as Pennsylvania. Pseudocolus fusiformis is very similar; see the comments below for help separating these species.

More photos of Clathrus columnatus, sent in by readers, can be found in the Stinkhorn Hall of Fame.

Description:

Ecology: Saprobic; growing alone or gregariously; often near woody debris (sometimes directly from stumps or living trees); in lawns, gardens, cultivated soil, and so on; from North Carolina to the Gulf coast, and in Mexico (reported as far north as New York); October through March.

Fruiting Body: 5-15 cm high, consisting of 2-6 curved arms arising separately (not from a shared stem) and joining at the top to form a "roof"; pinkish to reddish or orangish; upper area of inner surfaces at first covered with a foul-smelling, olive brown slime. When young encased in white eggs; the egg tissue creates a white volva around the branch bases when the mushroom matures.

Microscopic Features: Spores 3.5-5 x 2-2.5 µ; elliptical; smooth.

REFERENCES: Bosc, 1811. (Saccardo, 1888; Coker & Couch, 1928; Dring, 1980; Smith, Smith & Weber, 1981; Weber & Smith, 1985; Arora, 1986; Lincoff, 1992; Metzler & Metzler, 1992; Calonge et al., 2005; Miller & Miller, 2006.) Herb. Kuo 09270601.

Linderia columnata and Laternea columnata are synonyms.

Pseudocolus fusiformis has 3-4 arms that arise from a shared stem (which may be very short and hidden in the volva); the interior surfaces of its arms are covered with spore slime for at least the top half or two-thirds (sometimes all the way). Its eggs--and consequently its volva--are typically grayish to grayish brown (not white), and its range extends from Pennsylvania and New England to the Carolinas.

The best way to determine whether or not your columnatus-like stinkhorn's arms share a stem (which would indicate Pseudocolus fusiformis, instead), is to tease the thing apart with a knifepoint or dissecting needle; the arms of Clathrus columnatus, once freed of the volva, are clearly separate, and not at all fused.

Clathrus bicolumnatus, reported from California, is smaller (up to 9 cm tall) and has only two columns; it is yellowish to orangish.

 

Clathrus columnatus

Clathrus columnatus

Clathrus columnatus

Clathrus columnatus

Clathrus columnatus



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Kuo, M. (2006, September). Clathrus columnatus. Retrieved from the MushroomExpert.Com Web site: http://www.mushroomexpert.com/clathrus_columnatus.html