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Phallus duplicatus

October 12, 2011

Phallus duplicatus is one of dozens of stinkhorns, and is surprisingly not the only one known as the Veiled Stinkhorn. While most people may not readily identify this organism as a mushroom, it is in fact one of the most fascinating, and consequently is not too common. Phallus duplicatus, as well as P. indusiatus, P. multicolor and several other members of the genus Phallus, is a (surprise!) phallic fungus with a lace-like skirt that descends from the cap. Like all stinkhorns, it earns its name (although less strongly than others) from an ingenious evolutionary adaptation designed to ensure the reproduction of the species.

Observe the image above: on the cap of the fungus, there are indistinct red spots. However, if you click on the photograph, you will see in the magnified version that dozens of flies are resting on what is known as the gleba – both the source of the smell of rotting flesh (sounds pretty bad, but I guarantee unless you get up close and personal it’s hard to tell, unlike with some species of stinkhorn such as Mutinus canus, which you are very likely to smell before you see). If you haven’t put the pieces together yet, I don’t blame you, because I haven’t mentioned that the gleba contains a secret ingredient – the mushroom’s spores. The genius of this fungus is that instead of using gravity and microclimates to disperse spores like most mushrooms, the stinkhorn attracts flies with the enticing smell of something rotten, fooling them into thinking they’ll get a good meal. When the insects land on the gleba, they traipse through thousands of spores – and when they fly away to find a proper meal, they carry the spores with them; a slightly sneaky path to genesis.

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