Phallus multicolor (Berk. & Broome) Cooke - Yellow Bridal Veil Stinkhorn

Phylum: Basidiomycota - Class: Agaricomycetes - Order: Phallales - Family: Phallaceae

Phallus multicolor, Australia

Also commonly referred to as the Yellow Netted Stinkhorn, Phallus multicolor is usually smaller but otherwise looks very similar to Phallus indusiatus, the Bridal Veil Stinkhorn, a species found in tropical Africa, Asia, North America, South America and Australia. The cap is initially covered with brown 'gleba', a smelly coating that attracts insects which in turn distribute the spores.

Like other stinkhorns, Phallus multicolor emerges from an 'egg' beneath the ground.

Egg stage of Phallus multicolor, Australia

Distribution

Not recorded in Britain and Ireland, Phallus multicolor is a very common stinkhorn in parts of Australia including Queensland, where the pictures shown on this page were taken by Patrea Andersen. This colourful veiled stinkhorn is also recorded in many other tropical/sub-tropical countries including Hawaii.

A similar but very uncommon stinkhorn species found in Britain is Phallus impudicus var. togatus, which has a white volva, a white stem and a very short white veil, but in other macroscopic features is quite similar to Phallus multicolor.

Taxonomic history

This stinkhorn fungus was originally described under the scientific name of Dictyophora multicolor by British mycologists Miles Joseph Berkeley and Christopher Edmund Broome.

Another Briton, Mordecai Cubitt Cooke, is credited with establishing its currently-accepted scientific name Phallus multicolor in 1882.

Synonyms of Phallus multicolor include Dictyophora multicolor Berk. & Broome, Phallus daemonum Rumph. ex Fr., and Dictyophora echinata Henn. & E.Nyman.

Etymology

The genus name Phallus was chosen by Carl Linnaeus, and it is a reference to the phallic appearance of many of the fruitbodies within this fungal group.

The specific epithet multicolor is a reference to the variable colour (creamy white, pink, yellow or orange in various shades) of the veil (called an indusium) of this stinkhorn.

Toxicity

The vile smell of many mature stinkhorn fungi might be taken to suggest that these fungi are toxic or at least inedible; however, some people do eat them at the 'egg' stage, when the odour is not so evident. When fully mature, some stinkhorns are greatly valued as a source of food... but mainly if not only by flies! I have found one report stating that Phallus multicolor from Hawaii is considered to be poisonous.

Identification guide

Cap, stem and volva of Phallus multicolor

Description

The pinkish white or pale grey 'egg' from which this stinkhorn emerges is 2-3cm in diameter, gradually expanding until it ruptures and the stem emerges quickly, bearing the gleba-coated cap aloft. Beneath the sticky olive-brown gleba coating, the cap has an orange-yellow pitted honeycombe-like surface, visible once rain or flies have removed the gleba. The hollow stem is white with a pink or yellow tinge; it looks and feels like expanded polystyrene with slightly elongated surface hollows.

A lace-like veil hangs down from the rim of the cap, typically extending half-way down the stem. The veil colour is variable from almost pure white through cream, lemon yellow and orange-yellow to pink.

The remains of the volva surround the base of the stem like a bag. These stinkhorns range from 8 to 12cm tall; stipe diameter is typically 2cm; the cap is typically 2.5 to 3cm across.

 

Spores

Ellipsoidal to cylindrical (with rounded ends), smooth, 3.5-4.5 x 1.5-2.0µm.

Spore colour

Yellowish.

Odour/taste

A strong, unpleasant odour.

Habitat & Ecological role

Most often in leaf litter and on wood chip mulch.

Season

In tropical and sub-tropical climes stinkhorn fungi can fruit at any time of year when the humidity and temperature are high enough.

Similar species

Phallus impudicus, the Stinkhorn, is typically larger and has a white volva and stem but no indusium (skirt).

Phallus impudicus var. togatus, which has a white volva, a white stem and a very short white veil, occurs in Britain although it is a very rare find there.

Phallus indusiatus, the Veiled Stinkhorn, has a white stem and nearly always a pure white skirt.

Reference Sources

Hemmes, D. E., and D. E. Desjardin. (2002). Mushrooms of Hawaii. Ten Speed Press, Berkeley, California,

Hemmes, D. E., and D. E. Desjardin. (2002). Stinkhorns of the Hawaiian Islands; FUNGI Volume 2:3 Summer 2009.

Acknowledgement

The pictures of Phallus multicolor on this page were taken in Queensland, Australia and are shown by kind permission of Patrea Andersen.

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