Octopus Stinkhorn: Clathrus archeri
Fruiting body arising from a suberumpent egg, up to 5.0 cm tall, 4.0 cm in diameter, dense, white to lilac-colored rhizomorphs at the base; exoperidium glabrous, membranous, white, sometimes tinged lilac to brown, over a gelatinous under-layer; egg rupturing with elongation of four to seven slender arms, up to 9.0 cm in length, at first erect, the tips clasped, soon recurved; inner surface of arms shallowly corrugate, sordid pinkish-red, the upper two-thirds coated with a slimy, dark-olive gleba; exterior surface of arms pale-pink, wrinkled, pitted; arms fused to a short, hollow pseudostipe; context thin, fragile; odor strongly fetid at maturity; taste not investigated.
Spores 3.5-5.5 (7.0) x 1.5-2.0 µm, oblong to cylindrical, smooth, thin-walled; spores dark-olive in mass.
Gregarious to clustered in moist, shaded gardens and plant nurseries; fruiting during the warmer months of the year; an introduced species; uncommon.
Edible in the egg stage, but of inferior quality. One of us (mgw) has tried it and found both the texture and flavor very disagreeable.
This extraordinary stinkhorn looks more like a denizen of a tide pool than a fungus. With octopus-like arms, it appears to be lying in wait for an unwary visitor. The reality is less sinister, though not entirely pleasant either. The pinkish-red color and fetid odor presumably imitates decaying flesh, thus attracting flies. Like bees drawn to flowers, the flies unwittingly spread the species by picking up bits of the dark-olive spore-containing gleba. Clathrus archeri is native to Australia and Tasmania, apparently finding its way to California via bamboo nursery stock. Although a saprophyte and seemingly unspecific in substrate requirements, not just bamboo, it has not spread widely, and is known currently in California only from Santa Cruz and Monterey Counties. A close cousin, Clathrus ruber is found commonly in wood chips in urban areas. It is spectacular in its own right, producing a pinkish-red, hollow, basket-shaped structure, the interior lined with malodorous gleba