If you step outside one day to find a powerful stink in your freshly-laid mulch or new plants and you don’t have a dog, a stinkhorn mushroom might be to blame.
This unobtrusive fungi can pop up in wood chips, grass, or soil and they produce a very strong odor. Just like their name implies, stinkhorns produce a stink not unlike fresh manure.
Stinkhorns are particularly prone to show up after heavy rains. Just like most fungi, they like the extra moisture and will often produce fruiting bodies (mushrooms) after a big rain.
Most stinkhorns I see are associated with wood chips used for mulch. The hyphae (root-like structures) of the mushroom help to decompose leaf litter and wood, which is why they may be associated with wood chips.
Why Do These Mushrooms Smell So Bad?
Stinkhorn fungi smell so bad because they want to attract flies and other insects. The smell attracts the insect which lands on moist tip of the fruiting body (mushroom). The insects get spores on their feet as well as ingest some spores.
These spores are like the seeds of the mushroom and when the insects land somewhere else, the spores are deposited in another location, allowing new stinkhorn mushrooms to grow.
Will Stinkhorn Mushrooms Harm My Garden?
Stinkhorns generally aren’t troublesome for your garden, except for the smell. They can be hard to get rid of because the spores will persist in the soil or wood chips. They certainly make for an interesting conversation starter….
If you’re worried that your pet or kids might try to eat these mushrooms, you can manually remove them (Do use gloves!). However, this is akin to removing the flower from a plant. The main body of the mushroom is still in the soil or wood chips and the stinkhorn fruiting body will likely return.
Check out the mushroom expert website for more information about this fascinating fungus.