Gardener sniffs out unfamiliar fungus

A Manapouri man found this stinkhorn fungus while mowing the lawn at the weekend. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
A Manapouri man found this stinkhorn fungus while mowing the lawn at the weekend. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
A devilish diffusion of festering flesh hit the nostrils of a Manapouri man mowing his lawn at the weekend.

The culprit; a blood red, fly-attracting native fungus known as devil’s fingers (Clathrus archeri).

However, when Aaron Nicholson stumbled across the fungus he did not know what it was and took to social media to identify it.

He had seen the specimen several years before in the same spot at the Manapouri Motels & Holiday Park, but had assumed it was a flower dropped by a guest.

"I didn’t pay much attention to it, but when I saw it this time I thought, ‘hang on, there’s something unusual going on’, so I had a closer look."

Upon inspection, he found the five-fingered fungus.

"It has a kind of rough texture. It had a very funny smell coming out of it which was unpleasant."

He said it was like something gone off, like a dead mouse.

University of Otago department of botany emeritus professor Sir Alan Mark said the smell was to attract flies.

Unlike species such as the Venus flytrap, it did not trap the flies but used them to distribute spores.

"I’ve not seen one at Manapouri, but they’re not particularly uncommon."

The native fungus was a saprophyte, meaning it lived on dead material.

Sir Alan said it produced spores infrequently.

Aseroe rubra, also known as the anemone stinkhorn, was more common.

"It is also stinky because the spores are dependent on flies for dispersal."

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