• Outdoors Outdoors

Woman perplexed by mysterious source of foul odor on nature walk: 'What is this?'

"Only ever seen one in my life."

Clathrus crispus, Source of foul odor on nature walk

Photo Credit: iStock

Reddit has once again come to the rescue after a forager was left completely stumped by a strange, foul-smelling organism while out in the woods.

Pictures of the mysterious growth were posted to the platform, with all examples appearing to be red with craters in the surface. While a couple seemed to be round, others looked as if they had been popped with a needle — like a deflated soccer ball. 

"What is this? It smelled like poop and looked like poop in it with flies on it," the Redditor captioned the images on the r/Mycology subreddit. 

Clathrus crispus
Photo Credit: u/Sad-Strawberry3976 / Reddit

Over 100 comments have been left on the post, and many people provided some suggestions of what it might be.  

"Stinkhorn, only ever seen one in my life," one user commented. But others elaborated on that identification.

Some people guessed it was a Clathrus ruber, which looks very similar to the fungus in the original poster's pictures.  

After discovering that it was found in south Florida, though, one user said: "Supports my ID of Clathrus crispus. Clathrus ruber is considered a west coast species."

According to Ultimate Mushroom, the Clathrus crispus is a type of stinkhorn that "can be separated by the corona-like grooves surrounding each hole in the lattice structure." 

MushroomExpert.com noted they typically grow alone or in groups in woody or grassy areas in Florida, the Gulf Coast, Mexico, and the Caribbean. They also grow year-round in South America.

The website added the fungus resembles a red or pink "Wiffle ball." Meanwhile, when discussing stinkhorns in general, MushroomExpert.com said the bad smell is from a slime coating that helps it to attract flies, which then help to spread its spores. 

It's not surprising that some Redditors thought this particular fungus was a Clathrus ruber, as it shares plenty of similarities with the Clathrus crispus. While the smell might put some off, Ultimate Mushroom noted that the Clathrus ruber is safe to eat in the egg stage and is even a delicacy in some parts of the world. 

They can be useful in the decomposition process for plant and wood material, but Ultimate Mushroom recommends their removal, even if there is no evidence of toxicity in pets — and it might be wise to do the same with the Clathrus crispus. 

To do so, knocking down the stalks when they sprout is a good start. If the foul smell has already reached your nostrils, dispose of them using gloves and put them in sealed plastic bags to prevent the fragrance from following you indoors.

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