October 27, 2011

Oh, you clever, clever fungus.

Clathrus Ruber by spacepleb
Imagine the smell of barf. Now add to it the smell of poop and a rotting squirrel. Got it? Multiply that malodorous scent by two and you’ll know what the basket stinkhorn smells like!

This fungus can be found at the base of trees in Europe. Like other fungi, the way the basket stinkhorn doesn’t use seeds to reproduce. It uses spores (like the dots on the bottom of a fern’s frond). And to spread its spores, stinkhorns need flies.

You see, flies are drawn to things like barf, poop, and rotting squirrels. So the flies smell the stinkhorn and land on it, looking for a snack. In fact, the flies crawl all over the stinkhorn. This may be why the stinkhorn grows in that weird mesh-like pattern; it makes it easy for bugs to get all up and over it.

Anyway, the fly will eventually give up and off in disgust. Of course, the fly is coated with spores by then, and these will help spread the stinkhorn! Well-played, basket stinkhorn, well-played. (Photo by spacepleb.)

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