Major Groups > Stinkhorns > Phallus impudicus and Phallus hadriani


Phallus impudicus & Phallus hadriani:
The Common Stinkhorn

[ Agaricomycetes > Phallales > Phallaceae > Phallus . . . ]

by Michael Kuo

Stinkhorns are astonishing. Their abrupt appearance in gardens and lawns is frequently the cause of considerable consternation; they arise from an "egg" that results from the immature mushroom's universal veil, quickly breaking the "shell" and thrusting themselves up to heights of nearly 10 inches in a matter of hours!

Phallus impudicus, a common and widely distributed stinkhorn, was named by a French mycological pioneer with a French sense of humor. He may have found a specimen like the one photographed by Konnie Robertson, to the right. At any rate, like the other stinkhorns, Phallus impudicus covers its tip with a foul smelling and spore-laden slime; flies are attracted to it, and carry the spores away as they continue on their little fly adventures.

Stinkhorns have been much maligned over the years, perhaps because, like Scleroderma polyrhizum, they often appear where we don't want them: in the sterile botanical fortresses we try to maintain as our "yards" and "gardens." But unlike Scleroderma polyrhizum or dandelions, stinkhorns are extremely phallic, thrusting botanical invasion psychology into realms best analyzed by Freud. Your neighbor, stalking dandelions with a hand trowel every morning, is apparently no match for Etty Darwin (granddaughter of Charles), who "so despised stinkhorns that she mounted an antifungal jihad with the aid of gloves and a pointed stick," burning the stinkhorns in secret to protect "the purity of thought among her female servants" (Money, p. 3).

Older Phallus impudicus specimens are occasionally mistaken for yellow morels. After the spore-bearing slime has been picked clean by insects, the pitted and ridged surface of the cap can resemble the cap of a morel. Since stinkhorns are hollow, and since the smell is not always as foul as it frequently is, it's easy to see why misidentification occurs. However, stinkhorns typically grow in summer, rather than spring--and a close examination will usually reveal traces of the slime.

Phallus impudicus and Phallus hadriani differ only in the color of the volva (white in the former, purplish in the latter); both are described and illustrated here.


Ecology: Saprobic; growing alone or gregariously in gardens, flowerbeds, meadows, lawns, wood chips, cultivated areas, and so on; summer and fall; widely distributed in North America.

Immature Fruiting Body: Like a whitish to yellowish (or purplish, in Phallus hadriani) "egg" up to 6 cm across; usually at least partly submerged in the ground; when sliced revealing the stinkhorn-to-be encased in a gelatinous substance.

Mature Fruiting Body: Spike-like, to 25 cm high; with a cap 1.5-4 cm wide, which is covered with olive brown to dark brown slime; often developing a perforation at the tip; the cap surface pitted and ridged beneath the slime; sometimes with a whitish to purplish "skullcap" (a remnant of the volva); with a whitish, hollow stem, 1.5-3 cm thick; the base enclosed in a white (Phallus impudicus) or purplish (Phallus hadriani), sacklike volva, which is often at least partly submerged underground.

Microscopic Features: Spores 3.5 x 1.5-2.5 µ elliptical or oblong; smooth.

REFERENCES: Phallus impudicus: Linnaeus, 1753. (Fries, 1823; Saccardo, 1888; Long, 1907; Coker & Couch, 1928; Smith, Smith & Weber, 1981; Arora, 1986; Phillips, 1991/2005; Evenson, 1997; McNeil, 2006; Miller & Miller, 2006; Kuo, 2007.)Herb. Kuo 06100401.

REFERENCES: Phallus hadriani: Ventenat, 1801. (Weber & Smith, 1985; States, 1990 [as P. impudicus]; Horn, Kay & Abel, 1993.) Herb. Kuo 09220801.

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Phallus impudicus

Phallus hadriani

Phallus hadriani

Phallus impudicus

Phallus hadriani

Phallus impudicus

Phallus impudicus

Phallus hadriani

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Kuo, M. (2006, September). Phallus impudicus & P. hadriani: The common stinkhorn. Retrieved from the MushroomExpert.Com Web site: