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Phallus cinnabarinus; photo by Benedicta Wong

Thank you for considering Contributing a Collection to the Stinkhorn Project. So that we can study the DNA, morphology, and ecology of stinkhorns, collections will need to be illustrated, preserved, and mailed to us, together with information regarding the collection as detailed on the contribution form. Below please find suggestions for making a successful contribution.

Collecting the Stinkhorn

Stinkhorns are often fairly fragile, so you will want to handle the specimens carefully. No stinkhorn is known to be poisonous, and no harm can come to you from handling them--although the smell is often unpleasant (they're not called "perfume horns") and you might not want to get spore slime on your clothing.

We recommend using a pocket knife or gardening trowel to dig the stinkhorn out of the ground carefully. Stinkhorns arise from an egg-like structure that can often be found partially buried underneath the mature stinkhorn. Carefully remove excess dirt from the base of the stinkhorn.

If there are several stages of development available, it would be very useful to collect them so that we can study the stinkhorn's development. For example, an "egg," if one is available, would make a nice accompaniment to a mature stinkhorn.

Photographing the Stinkhorn

Since we will be studying your stinkhorn in the dried state, we will need to see what it looked like when it was fresh. Photos from a digital camera are preferable (here is a page with some photography tips), but stinkhorns can also be scanned (see this page for tips) or photographed with a cell phone. Blurry, out-of-focus photos, however, will not help us see what the stinkhorn looked like--and photos taken with standard indoor lighting (which is especially yellow) usually make precise colors difficult to assess.

It would be nice to include photos of the stinkhorn in its natural setting--even to include photos of the setting itself . . . but if this is not possible, photos of your stinkhorn from several angles, after you have picked it, will still be very useful.

Preserving the Stinkhorn

Unfortunately it's not possible to mail your stinkhorn without preserving it somehow; if you were to try, more fungi would arrive in the container than were there when you sent it! So you will need to dry your specimens. If you have a food dehydrator, it would be ideal for this purpose (be sure to wash the trays with soap and water after you're done)--but since most folks do not have a dehydrator available to them, the method below can be used to dry the stinkhorn. Please do not attempt to use your oven, even on its lowest setting, for this purpose; not only will you regret it because of the odor, but ovens actually cook the specimens, rather than just drying them out.

Place the specimens on a paper towel or piece of screen wire, and set them over a lamp, as illustrated. However, you should probably not attempt this in your living quarters (again recall that they're not called "perfume horns"); perhaps a garage or basement would be better suited. Be careful not to overheat them by placing them above a very strong light bulb. The drying process may take several days (fortunately, the odor will probably not last that long, and will be strongest in the first few hours). You will know the stinkhorns are dried out when they are, well, dried out to the touch. The stinkhorns in the illustration are near the end of the drying process. Note that they are dried out, but not blackened or "cooked" (the black stuff is just dried-up spore slime, not blackened tissues).

Drying Stinkhorns with a Lamp

Documenting Your Collection

Please print and fill out our brief contribution form, so that your collection will be documented appropriately.

Mailing the Stinkhorn

Please avoid closing the dried stinkhorn up in an airtight container; condensation and residual moisture can lead to mold and decay of your specimen. We recommend that you wrap the dried specimens loosely in a paper towel, and surround them with bubble wrap, newspaper, or other packing material in a small box.

Please send your specimen(s), along with the printed contribution form (see above), to:

The Stinkhorn Project
Dr. Michael Kuo
Post Office Box 742
Charleston, IL 61920

If you are mailing from outside the United States, it is important that you put the words "Gift of mushroom specimen for identification" on the customs declaration. All of the words in quotes are important.

When we receive your contribution, we will send you an e-mail to let you know it has arrived. And, as our studies progress, we will of course keep you updated on anything we discover through study of your specimens.

Cite this page as:

Kuo, M., M. C. Aime & C. L. Ovrebo (2012, March). Contributing to the stinkhorn project. Retrieved from the MushroomExpert.Com Web site: http://www.mushroomexpert.com/stinkhorns/contribute.html

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