Found A Smelly Dark Tip Fungus? It’s Dog Stinkhorn!

dog stinkhorn

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.

Dog Stinkhorns: Have You Seen Them?

Dog stinkhorns showing up in your yard

One of my coworkers sent me a picture of some weird looking growths in her garden areas. They rose quickly, arising with a red stalk and a brown tip and they stink. The common name for this organism is a Dog Stinkhorn.

Fall is the traditional time when Stinkhorns will push up in gardens, landscape beds and even in lawns. They are in the mushroom family, but instead of relying on wind to carry its spores, this species produces a thick slime at the tip that attracts insects, including flies that carry the spores to other locations.

Stinkhorns are common to North America. They sprout from an egg-shaped bulb that develops at the ground level or slightly below. It slowly pushes up the slender stalk that can be white, pink or orange in color.

The slime that is produced at the tip smells like rotting flesh, which is a big attractant to many insect species. If your gardens or lawns are displaying Stinkhorns, take comfort in knowing that they have a very short life span and will mostly be gone the next day.

Stinkhorns are not poisonous and I doubt any person or animal would be enticed to eat it due to the smell. They are fascinating to look at, but you have to be quick as they don’t last very long.

There really isn’t any control for Stinkhorns.

Stinkhorns are a fungi and actually serve a purpose by feeding on organic material and producing food for the organisms that live in the Soil Food Web of amoebas, protozoa, fungi, bacteria, ciliates, nematodes, etc. All these organisms are working together to develop a healthy soil for the plants.

In doing some research on Stinkhorns, There is a great video of the life of a Stinkhorn. It is less than a minute long, but it shows how quickly it will develop and die. I found it fascinating and I hope you do as well. Check it out!

If you have questions about things growing in your yard, contact your local Spring-Green for more information.

Stinkhorns: What Is This Fungus Among Us?

stinkhorn in landscape

Earlier this summer, I spoke about slime molds growing in the mulch of landscape beds. The one that most people see is called Dog Vomit slime mold since the name describes the appearance of the slime mold—slimy, yellowish and gelatinous. Another type of fungal growth is showing up in a number of mulch beds right now – stinkhorns.

Stinkhorns are common in the US and usually show up in the late summer and early fall. They can form in lawns or in mulch beds. Stinkhorns get their name from the spore-rich slime that it produces at the tip, which attract flies and other insects. These insects feed on the slime and spread the spores that they pick up to other parts of the lawn and landscape.

How Long Do Stinkhorns Last?

Stinkhorns are short-lived organisms and last only about a day before shriveling up and dying. This particular stinkhorn grows from a whitish “egg” that forms in the mulch or organic matter. Even though they only live for a short time, they can produce a foul swelling odor to attract insects to it.

The type that is pictured here is often called a Dog Stinkhorn. Stinkhorns are saprophytes, the organisms that are responsible for composting or breaking down organic material. There are saprophytes that break down the fallen oak tree in the forest and there are saprophytes that breakdown the dead grass blades in your lawn. They are very beneficial organisms and are an integral part of the soil food web.

How Do I Control Stinkhorns?

There is really nothing you can do to control the growth of the stinkhorns in your mulch. They are truly beneficial organisms and help to provide food to other microorganisms that live in the soil, which in turn helps improve the health of your landscape plants. Luckily, they only live for a day, so the odor is not a long-lasting problem.

Spring-Green can help you control unwanted guests in your lawns and gardens—from ticks and mosquitoes to moss and weeds, Get in touch with your local Spring-Green for a free diagnosis and estimate.