So far this summer we’ve been receiving abundant rainfall here in southeast Michigan, and as a result a wide variety of fungi have been bursting forth from the ground. One I found most interesting was this particular stinkhorn fungus (Phallales: Phallaceae: Phallus rubicundus).
As with other stinkhorns, this fungus begins its fruiting phase with an egg-like structure that grows just below the ground:
A spongy, hollow stalk soon bolts upward, turning from white to red with height:
The dark conical cap is covered with a slimy substance that holds the spores. The slime gives off an unpleasant odor that attracts certain insects, and they in turn help disperse these tiny reproductive structures.
P. rubicundus is often mistaken for related stinkhorns in the genus Mutinus, but this fungus has a distinctly-separated cap:
Although native to tropical and subtropical regions, this stinkhorn can now be found throughout much of the southern and eastern United States. As a saprobe it obtains nutrients from decaying wood, and in the US it’s perhaps most commonly found growing in wood mulch used in gardens and landscaping. For that reason this fungus is thought to have been introduced here in mulch that was imported from the tropics.