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Lysurus periphragmoides

[ Agaricomycetes > Phallales > Phallaceae > Lysurus . . . ]

by Ron Meyers

Lysurus periphragmoides, often featured in field guides as "Simblum sphaerocephalum," is not common in Kansas. I had never seen it except when someone else brought it to meetings of the Kaw Valley Mycological Society. Even then it was only an occasional lone specimen. So it was a surprise when a cluster of over a dozen fruiting bodies and eggs were found in a yard in Lawrence.

When I checked the location the stinkhorns were only "eggs." I have had fairly good luck “hatching” stinkhorn eggs in the past, so I collected five and planted them in moist soil in a flower pot. I expected results, if any, in a couple of days. After a week the eggs had not changed and I was discouraged. But the next day two of them came out of the volva--unfortunately with much of the sac still firmly attached to the cap. It was not a good photo opportunity.

However, after another week, two more eggs opened. These also had part of the sac over the cap, but I was able to remove it and get some decent photos. I do not know whether the remnants of the egg had more tendency to stay attached because of the controlled environment, but it would not be an evolutionary asset for the gleba to remain covered and prevent insects from feeding and spreading spores.

Interestingly, of the four eggs that hatched, two had what we would have referred to on the farm as “double yolks” if they had been chicken eggs. They produced fused heads on two arched stalks from a single volva. I consulted several field guides in an effort to discover whether this was a common characteristic; only McKnight (1987, p. 346) and Arora (1986; p. 776) reported this as an occasional possibility.

When I checked the site a few days later there were still several unopened eggs, including one which was extra large. I brought several more home, and in a week two of them opened. Neither of these had a round stem; rather, it was more oval, and the stinkhorns fell over as soon as they expanded. However, the larger specimen had a stem that was 4 cm across, double the size range specified in any of the references. Granted, the stem was partially compressed, instead of round, but even the narrower side measured 2 cm. The head was also 4 cm broad.

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

Description:

Ecology: Saprobic; growing alone or in groups on fertile ground or mulch in lawns, pastures, and open woods; possibly introduced to North America through human activity; originally reported on the continent mostly from the south, but now found at least in New York, the Southeast, the Midwest, and New Mexico.

Fruiting Body: Initially a white or buff "egg" up to 4 cm across. When mature it is 7-14 cm high, consisting of a stem and a more or less round head. Stem 6-10 cm high by 1-4 cm wide; hollow; orange to reddish; walls 1-4 mm thick. Head 1.5-4 cm broad; round or somewhat flattened; divided into an orange or reddish lattice. The fruiting body hatches from a white volva with an inner gelatinous layer.

Flesh: Fragile; spongy; orange to reddish.

Spore mass: Slimy; greenish or olive-brown; resting within the depressions of the lattice. Initially the spore mass is slightly sweet smelling (although still offensive), but becomes more foul smelling as it is exposed to air.

Microscopic Features: Spores 3.5-4.5 x 1.5-2 µ; elliptical to oblong; smooth.

REFERENCES: (Klotzsch, 1831) Dring, 1980. (Saccardo, 1888; Long, 1907; Coker & Couch, 1928; Dring, 1980; Smith, Smith & Weber, 1981; Weber & Smith, 1985; Arora, 1986; McKnight & McKnight, 1987; Metzler & Metzler, 1992; Horn, Kay & Abel, 1993; Miller & Miller, 2006.)

Simblum sphaerocephalum is a synonym. Simblum texense--with yellow arms and slightly longer spores--is probably a synonym, while Simblum texense var. albidum is definitely a synonym, according to Dring (1980).

 

Lysurus periphragmoides

Lysurus periphragmoides

Lysurus periphragmoides

Lysurus periphragmoides

Lysurus periphragmoides

Lysurus periphragmoides

Lysurus periphragmoides



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Meyers, R. (2004, November). Lysurus periphragmoides. Retrieved from the MushroomExpert.Com Web site: http://www.mushroomexpert.com/lysurus_periphragmoides.html