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Lysurus species 01: periphragmoides, "sphaerocephalum"

[ Basidiomycota > Phallales > Lysuraceae > Lysurus . . . ]

by Michael Kuo

It's hard to imagine mistaking this mushroom for anything else; it is one of the few mushrooms easily identified by comparison to photos. Lysurus species 01 is an amazing stinkhorn that looks like a combination of "phalloid" and "clathroid" stinkhorn types. Phalloid stinkhorns (think Phallus impudicus) have a well-developed stem, and a fairly simple head structure that holds the stinky spore slime common to all stinkhorns. Clathroid stinkhorns (Clathrus ruber is a good example), on the other hand, usually lack well-developed stems and feature cage-like or lattice-like structures to hold their stinky goo. Lysurus species 01 seems to fall between the cracks, since it has a well-developed stem that holds aloft a gooey lattice.

Pretty much everybody, myself included, has called this mushroom "Lysurus periphragmoides" over the years. But recent research by Hernández Caffot and collaborators (2018) demonstrates convincingly, with DNA support and careful evaluation of original species descriptions and illustrations, that the true Lysurus periphragmoides is a yellowish to whitish species with a stockier stem and a more regularly meshed head, currently known from Africa and Asia. The pinkish orange, skinnier-stemmed species, the researchers determined, matches Simblum sphaerocephalum, which was originally described from Spain (Schlechtendal, 1862; see illustration below). However, DNA evidence clearly supports placing Simblum sphaerocephalum in the genus Lysurus, so the researchers attempted to transfer the name as "Lysurus sphaerocephalum." Unfortunately they neglected to provide a registration number from MycoBank or Index Fungorum (now a requirement for naming new species), so the name is invalid. Additionally (at least, according to my application of two years of high school Latin 40 years ago), "sphaerocephalum" should have been "sphaerocephalus" to match the masculine declension of Lysurus. So we are left with no "good name" for the thing we have always called "Lysurus periphragmoides," until someone goes into Fungal Nomenclature Hell with a pitchfork and fixes things.

Thanks to K. Heffley, Roger Heidt, and Ron Kerner for collecting, documenting, and preserving Lysurus species 01 for study; their collections are deposited in The Herbarium of Michael Kuo.


Ecology: Saprobic; growing alone or gregariously, usually in urban habitats (lawns, landscaping, gardens, and so on), but also in woods or in cultivated fields; widely distributed in North America from roughly the 42nd parallel southward through Mexico; also known from South America, Europe, Africa, Asia, and Australia; summer, or, in warm climates, year round. The illustrated and described collections are from Indiana, Iowa, and Texas.

Fruiting Body: Initially a whitish "egg" up to about 2 cm wide and 3 cm high; emerging to form a mushroom with a stem and a head. Stem 5–10 cm long; 1–2 cm thick; pale to dark orange; hollow; round in cross-section; more or less equal; coarsely pocketed; spongy and soft; base encased in a white volva that is attached to white rhizoids. Head consisting of a more or less round lattice structure 2–3 cm across, formed by interconnected branches about 5 mm thick; branches pale to dark orange or nearly red, tightly wrinkled in concentric accordion-like folds, with inner surfaces covered with malodorous, dark brown spore slime.

Microscopic Features: Spores 3.5–4 x 1.5–2 µm; elongated-ellipsoid to subcylindric; smooth; hyaline in KOH, often with 2 small guttules; inamyloid. Context sphaerocysts 20–45 µm; subglobose to subellipsoid; walls 1 µm thick; smooth; hyaline in KOH. Volval tissue composed of hyphae 2–4 µm wide, frequently septate, clamped at septa, smooth, thin-walled, hyaline in KOH.

REFERENCES: Schlechtendal, 1862. (Note: most of the sources listed treat this mushroom as "periphragmoides." Saccardo, 1888; Long, 1907; Lloyd, 1909; Coker & Couch, 1928; Dring & Rayner, 1967; Dring, 1980; Smith, Smith & Weber, 1981; Guzmán, 1984; Weber & Smith, 1985; Arora, 1986; McKnight & McKnight, 1987; Metzler & Metzler, 1992; Horn, Kay & Abel, 1993; Calonge et al., 2004; Miller & Miller, 2006; Cortez et al., 2011; Hosaka, 2012; Trierveiler-Pereira et al., 2014; Gogoi & Parkash, 2015; Hernández Caffot et al., 2018; McKnight et al., 2021.) Herb. Kuo 12071201, 08181801, 09201803, 10152101. Herb. CSU: CLO 2981, 3219, 3223, 4490, 4497, 4797.

Simblum sphaerocephalum
1862 protologue illustration of Simblum sphaerocephalum, public domain, adapted from a scan provided online by the Biodiversity Heritage Library at

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Lysurus species 01

Lysurus species 01

Lysurus species 01

Lysurus species 01

Lysurus species 01

Lysurus species 01

Lysurus species 01

Lysurus species 01
Sphaerocysts from stem

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Kuo, M. (2022, August). Lysurus species 01. Retrieved from the MushroomExpert.Com Web site: