Their name doesn’t sound very appetizing, their shape certainly doesn’t help matters much, and their odor can be downright offensive. The genus Mutinus Caninus, also known as Dog Stinkhorn, are a rather unusual garden fungus. This unsavory member of the mushroom family can be recognized by it’s distinctive shape and terrible smell.
What is this dark tip smelly fungus?
They will be hard to miss if you have them. For those not well-versed in Latin, the scientific name describes the similarity of their shape to that of a male dog’s identifying anatomical characteristic. Stinkhorns are generally not considered to be edible and even if you are into mushrooms, you won’t likely confuse these with any of their appetizing relatives, nor will you find them terribly appealing.
Dog Stinkhorn mushrooms are found in the eastern US as well as Europe, Asia, and elsewhere. They usually show up in wooded areas as well as lawns or in mulched beds during the late summer and early fall. Stinkhorns get their name from the spore-rich slime that they produce at the tip. The unpleasant aroma of this slimy substance has been likened to that of decaying animal flesh or of cat droppings. Believe it or not, that nasty odor serves an important purpose: reproduction. Most mushroom varieties reproduce by distributing their spores on the wind.
By comparison, stinkhorns rely on insects to do the job. The same smell that repels people attracts flies and other insects that will land on the slime and feed on it. In the process, they get the spores all over their feet as well as into their digestive system. These insects then take off and spread the spores that they picked up to other areas via natural means. Although this method of distributing spores may not seem terribly appealing to us humans, it is quite effective.
Where Is Dog Stinkhorn Located?
While many stinkhorn fungus varieties are found in wooded areas, the Dog Stinkhorn can also be found among leaves and mulch as well as in rich, cultivated soils such as may be found in your lawn and landscape beds. Dog Stinkhorn mushrooms sprout from an off-white, tough, egg-shaped structure that develops at the ground level or slightly below, often amongst the leaves and mulch and usually out of sight. If you were to look closely enough, you would find that the “eggs” are attached to the soil by white cords called rhizomorphs.
After the bulb erupts, the fungus grows a slender, fragile stalk that can be white, pink or orange in color, with a dark tip that is usually curved and somewhat pointed. This growth can happen rather rapidly, sometimes over a period of several hours, which makes stinkhorns seem to appear from out of nowhere. The good news is that they have a very short life span and will also disappear rapidly.
Even though stinkhorn mushrooms are not considered edible—we certainly do not recommend trying to eat one—they are not poisonous, either. In fact they are very beneficial organisms. Other microorganisms in the soil feed on these, which improves the condition of your soil and ultimately, of you landscape plants. We could not in good conscience tell you to eradicate a beneficial lawn and garden organism. Therefore, there is no prescribed prevention or control for Dog Stinkhorn other than to wait a day or so for them to go away.
While mushrooms are seldom considered a threat to a healthy lawn and landscape, we still encourage you to call on your neighborhood lawn care professional at Spring-Green whenever you have questions or concerns. We are always happy to share our expertise and when necessary, we can diagnose and treat a wide variety of lawn and landscape issues, such as those caused by weeds, pests, and diseases.