Common Stinkhorn Mushroom

Scientific Name(s): Phallus impudicus
Abundance: uncommon
What: inner part of "egg"
How: cooked
Where: woods, mulch
When: winter
Nutritional Value:
Dangers: mature ones smell really bad

Growth Form: Phallus impudicus typically emerges from an egg-like structure and grows rapidly to its full height of 4"-6" tall.

Cap Shape and Size: The cap is 1.5 to 2 inches high, with a conical head that is covered in a greenish-brown, slimy spore mass.

Gills or Pores: This species does not have traditional gills or pores; instead, the spore mass is located on the head of the cap.

Stipe Characteristics: The stipe is 3 to 5 inches tall and 1 to 1.5 inches thick, white, and hollow, with a spongy texture.

Odor: Known for its strong, unpleasant odor, often described as fetid or carrion-like.

Bruising: The flesh of the stipe is brittle and does not show significant bruising.

Spore Color: The spore print is olive-brown.

Substrate and Habitat: Commonly found in forests, yards, and other areas rich in organic matter.

Other Characteristics: Notable for its phallic shape when mature. The egg-like structure from which it emerges is white to pale yellow.  

Mature common stinkhorn mushroom.
Mushroom Stinkhorn Phallus impudicus

Common stinkhorn eggs.
Mushroom Stinkhorn Phallus impudicus

Close-up of common stinkhorn egg.
Mushroom Stinkhorn Phallus impudicus

Common stinkhorn egg starting to "hatch".
Mushroom Stinkhorn Phallus impudicus

Common stinkhorn egg cut in half. The inner spongy, off-white part is the edible section.
Mushroom Stinkhorn Phallus impudicus

Very young, bisected stinkhorn egg.
Mushroom - Common Stinkhorn

Really, there's no part of the lifecycle of the common stinkhorn mushroom where it doesn't look disgusting. At best, they'll look like a cluster of mottled, alien eggs poking up through mulch. At worst, they look like the remains of a grotesque crime! And at the "crime" stage they have the added benefit of smelling very much like dog poo. And yet, people figured out they're edible. Humans have gone through some pretty hungry times!

Somewhat more common in the winter, these strange mushrooms seem to prefer growing in piles of mulch or other loose, organic matter. As mentioned above, they'll look like a cluster of red/orange/brown/gray mottled eggs poking out of the mulch. Slightly older ones will have begun to split across the top as a gray-tip...rod...begins erecting itself. As it grows a pale shaft appears beneath the gray, shrouded tip. At this point that tip-shroud will smell like dog poo. The shaft is fairly weak and so rather than sticking upright it'll sag limply over, ending up laying across the ground.

The only edible portion is the early "egg", plucked before the top begins to split and with the outer layers removed to just leave the white/cream-colored, spongy part. At this point the mushroom has a mild, almost pleasant smell. This peeled egg is then diced up and cooked with eggs or other items. Basically treat it like most other mushrooms but definitely cook it.

As far as toxic mimics go, there are other stinkhorns that burst out of eggs but none look a Phallus impudicus. Others will be red in color or consist of four tentacle-like limbs joined at the top. All of them will stink as they use flies to spread their spores.

Stinky dog mushroom (Mutinus caninus)

Columned Stinkhorn (Clathrus columnatus)
Mushroom - Stinkhorn

There are both edible and poisonous mimics of the young "eggs", however.

Edible puffball mushrooms are a homogenous white color.
Mushroom Puffball

Poisonous Earthball mushrooms have an off-white skin around a dark center.
Mushroom Earth Ball

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