Bridal Veil fungus

The Wet season has arrived, with thunderstorms and brief downpours of 20 – 50 mm or more, and the natural world is responding to the combination of heat and moisture as it always does. Fungi, in particular, are emerging in numbers and varieties we haven’t seen since … well, our visit to the Daintree, actually, but we haven’t seen them here since last Wet season.

Some fungi are weirder than others, and some names are more risible than others. This one wins on both counts.

Bridal Veil Stinkhorn, with another in the background just emerging

The family name is ‘Stinkhorn’ (not very complimentary but never mind), the Australian common name is ‘Bridal Veil Stinkhorn’ (the mind may boggle but yes, we can see where that comes from) and the genus name is ‘Phallus’ (oh). Its full botanical name is Phallus indusiatus, which means it is ‘wearing an undergarment’ not a bridal veil. According to Wikipedia the species can reach a maximum height of 25 cm, which would be far more impressive than our 7 – 10 cm specimen.

Why is it called a stinkhorn?

bridal veil stinkhorn
The ‘stink’ in action

My second photo is one I took in Anderson Park, near the end of the Wet season in March 2016, and it illustrates the reason for the family’s common name. The pitted darker section of the cap is filled with a glutinous liquid which smells like rotting meat and is full of spores. The stench attracts flies, which consume the liquid and eventually deposit intact spores in excrement to germinate elsewhere.

The species has a worldwide tropical distribution and is edible. Featured as an ingredient in Chinese cuisine (as ‘Bamboo Mushroom’, I believe, but I’m not sure), it is grown commercially and sold in Asian markets.

The whole family (Phallaceae) is quite bizarre. This link will take you to a gallery of the various species on iNaturalist. It might be a little slow to load but I think it’s worth it; amongst the variety of nets, cages and craypot forms the ‘veil’ takes in other species, it amply illustrates the reasons for the family’s botanical name.

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