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Clathrus archeri: The Octopus Helicopter Stinkhorn

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

by Michael Kuo

My son, who is two, took one look at the stinkhorn photos to the right and said, "appetee!" That's his word for "octopus" and "helicopter" (flip an octopus upside down in your mind and you'll see why he thinks they're the same). So, since other authors have already coined the label "octopus stinkhorn" for this funky species, I will borrow from my son's vocabulary and call it the "helicopter stinkhorn."

In fact helicopter may be a more apt metaphor, since it is harder to imagine an octopus traveling from continent to continent--from Australia and New Zealand to Asia, Europe, and California as Clathrus archeri has done over the last 100-200 years. European mycologists speculate that the tropical Clathrus archeri arrived on their continent from Australia during World War I, with wool shipments or military rations. In North America it is known from the Santa Cruz, California area, where it may have been unintentionally imported with bamboo.

Pseudocolus fusiformis is very similar--but it usually features fewer arms, which are generally paler in color and do not separate as frequently.

Anthurus archeri is a synonym.


Ecology: Saprobic; growing alone or gregariously--often near woody debris, in lawns, gardens, cultivated soil, and so on; Australia and New Zealand but also introduced to Europe and northern California; also known from eastern Africa; fruiting nearly year-round.

Immature Fruiting Body: Like a whitish to pale brownish, pinkish, or purplish "egg"; when sliced revealing the stinkhorn-to-be encased in a greenish brown gelatinous substance.

Fruiting Body: 5-15 cm high; consisting of 4-8 (rarely up to 12) arms that arise from a flared stem and are loosely held together before separating and spreading outwards at maturity; arms 3-10 cm long, tapered to apices, blood red on the inner (upper) surface and paler red elsewhere, finely pitted; stem up to about 5 cm high, whitish below and pinkish to reddish above, with the base encased in a whitish volva and attached to white rhizomorphs. Spore slime dark greenish brown to nearly black; covering the inner surfaces of the arms; malodorous.

Microscopic Features: Spores 4-7.5 x 2-2.5 µ; long-ellipsoid to cylindric; smooth.

REFERENCES: (Berkeley, 1859) Dring, 1980. (Saccardo, 1888; Cunningham, 1944/1979; Dring, 1980; Arora & Burk, 1982; Arora, 1986; Breitenbach and Kränzlin, 1986; Miller & Miller, 1988.)

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Clathrus archeri

Clathrus archeri

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Kuo, M. (2010, October). Clathrus archeri: The octopus helicopter stinkhorn. Retrieved from the MushroomExpert.Com Web site: