The Story of the Stinkhorn and the Four Thieves

My husband found something very strange growing in our yard, and asked me to come outside to look at it. Elongated, pinkish with a red tip, it looked like some magical sea creature that nature had guerilla crocheted on our lawn. It was bouncy and spongy to the touch. We had no idea what it was, other than some type of fungus, and I have seen enough Sci-Fi flicks to know that I needed to keep an eye on it…

To try and unravel the mystery of this fungus, I turned to my Facebook network of friends. I posted the above photo and within minutes our friend JT, who is knowledgeable on a surprisingly wide array of topics, responded, “Looks like a stinkhorn. Didn’t know we had any around here. Live & learn.” So, I Googled “Stinkhorn” and found on MushroomExpert.com that they are “notorious for popping up suddenly and unexpectedly in urban settings.” They are member of the aptly-named Phallaceae family of fungi and they are called stinkhorns because of the distinctively stinky slime they use to entice bugs to come pick up their spores and spread them around. Ours being newly formed had not developed the slime, so did not have a scent.

I planned to leave it in the yard to see how it would develop, but the next morning when I went to check on it, it was gone, along with a patch of grass around where it had been. Some critter had gotten to it! However, I found another one near where it had been that was fatter and slimier looking than the first. Not long afterward, my friend Andi warned me with some information she had found on eHow.com’s Facts on the Stinkhorn Fungus, “Whatever you do, don’t uproot it. they’ll just propagate.” On the other hand, she noted that “Because of their suggestive shapes, the Phallus and Dictyophora stinkhorns are sold as aphrodisiacs in China,” so I could start a new business! Andi also found that the “eggs” from which certain stinkhorn varieties emerge are “edible and taste like radishes.”

Intrigued by the possible utility of this newly discovered wild plant in my yard, I did some further research. Perhaps I had discovered some new gourmet edible. I found an article by Wildman Steve Brill, who has tried stinkhorns in a couple of different forms, and came to the conclusion that they are flavorless with a weird slimy texture like “mock squid.” I decided I needed to eliminate the second stinkhorn before they took over my lawn.

In the meantime, Andi had found this method for eliminating them:

1) Locate the fungus.

2) Make a mixture of boiling hot water and bleach.

3) Plug your nose with free hand or with the help of a neighbor.

4) Pour the mixture (still hot) onto the fungus. (Add to sneaker tips too for an extra brightening effect.)

5) Repeat steps once a day until the fungus is gone

I had recently bottled a batch of Four Thieves vinegar, so I chose to start with a natural solution, following the above directions but substituting the Fourt Thieves for the bleach. It has been over a week now, and my lawn remains stinkhorn-free.

As a bonus for those of you who have read this far, here are some images from the Stinkhorn Hall of Fame

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8 thoughts on “The Story of the Stinkhorn and the Four Thieves

  1. I know as a plant I should be appreciative of it but it is one ugly, scary looking critter! Too many sci-fi movies here too, and a vivid imagination – so yes I would also be wanting a Stinkhorn free garden.

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  2. Ewwww!!!! Those are some ugly mushrooms! And how brave of that man to actually eat one!?! Much braver than me! 🙂 I am with you and keep those uglies out of your yard!

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    • They are downright funky, aren’t they? I like to practice plant tolerance, but I only have so much room, so I at least like to have stuff that is nice to look at and/or good to eat. These are neither!

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  3. Love this- even the creepy mushrooms!
    I’m totally inspired by the vinegar recipe and gathering my materials. I have a few questions though.
    Is that last container made of brushed aluminum? Who is the distributor?
    Thanks!

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  4. This post really made me smile. Sometimes I feel that as a blogger, I should be more focused on a singular topic but if you can go from stink horns to the Thrifty Hog in NYC, I think I’m okay. Good luck eradicating them naturally.

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    • Glad it brought a smile to your face. Not quite as funny as your poop post, but I just had to share my experience with this funky fungus. While we both cover a range of topics, I’d say our blogs have unified underlying themes. And, thanks! Still no sign of them. I think the stinkhorns have been banished!

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