You say creepy like it’s a bad thing. In the world of Rotten Botany, there are few things more glorious than the moment when our Rotanists discover a plant they did not already know about. I recently happened upon the following video which shows time-lapse footage of the Clathrus archeri, aka Devil Finger Fungi aka Octopus Stinkhorn. The fungus can be seen “hatching” from its egg-like sac. And guess what it smells like after it has fully matured? Rotten flesh! Its hope is to attract flies to spread the spores in its “tentacles.”
Clathrus archeri is native to Australia and New Zealand although it can be found introduced in forests in Europe and North America (they have been documented specifically at Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park near Santa Cruz). If you see this fungtastic wonder, DO NOT APPROACH. It won’t harm you…well, actually, it could (see below) but we don’t want YOU to harm it. Take a photo, though, to share with rotanical lovers everywhere.
According to Kew Royal Botanic Gardens the unexpanded (not yet “hatched”) eggs of stinkhorns are considered a culinary delicacy in some countries but related species to C. ruber, have had reports of poisoning: eczema, convulsions, and sickness are anecdotally said to be the result of handling the Clathrus ruber fungus. The related stinkhorn, Phallus impudicus, has been used to treat wounds (with the dried “dust” or spores) to prevent infection.