Lantern Stinkhorn: Lysurus mokusin
Common Name: Lantern stinkhorn
Fruiting body arising from a subhypogeous egg, the latter often in groups with conspicuous rhizomorphs; mature fruiting body 4.0-12.0 cm tall, consisting of a pseudostipe sheathed at the base by a white, membranous volva and a fertile head; pseudostipe, 2.0-9.0 cm long, 1.0-1.5 cm thick, four to five ribbed, pallid to flesh-colored, fragile, hollow, the surface wrinkled to lacunose; fertile head up to 3.0 cm long, conic to obtuse-conic, composed of four to five clasped arms, contoured like the pseudostipe, i.e. with alternating ribs and furrows; in youth the furrows covered with ochre-brown to dark-olive gleba, the ridges reddish-orange; in age the spore-bearing surface entirely reddish-orange; odor fetid at maturity; taste not investigated.
Spores 3.5-4.0 (5.0) x 1.5 µm, oblong-cylindrical, some slightly curved, appearing sausage-shaped, smooth, thin-walled, hilar appendage not evident; spores ochre-brown to olive-brown in mass.
Scattered to clustered in lawns, gardens, nurseries, etc., occasionally on well rotted wood chips; fruiting during the warm months of the year; found sporadically in Southern California and the Central Valley; rare in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Edible in the egg stage, according to the literature. We have not tried it.
Lysurus mokusin combines a fetid odor with a fruiting body that imitates rotting flesh. The deception is irresistible to flies which carry off the olive gleba-bearing spores, helping disperse the species. Its distribution is nonetheless limited, found only in parks and gardens etc. Like other California stinkhorns, with perhaps the exception of Phallus hadriani, Lysurus mokusin is though to be an introduced species, arriving on nursery stock from tropical regions. It is recognized by a strongly ribbed pseudostipe and reddish "cap" composed of four to five furrowed, clasped arms. A related paler species, Lysurus cruciatus (=L. borealis), has a round, not ribbed pseudostipe, and at maturity, spreading, not clasped arms.