It’s mid-July and the Florida rainy season is in full force. The ground is moist and warm. Seeds and spore that have laid dormant during the drier months are springing forth with life. Many of the sudden growths are easily recognizable, but some seem down right alien!
This strangle fungus is a Clathrus crispus, a member of the stinkhorn family. I think they’re wonderful, but some of my neighbors don’t share this view. After all, stinkhorns do stink! Even though some may find them unpleasant, these fungi are not much to worry about. I’ve never seen individual ‘Wiffle Ball’ stinkhorns last much more than a single day, plus they are not considered harmful.
Clathrus crispus are saprophytes (i.e. they break down organic matter). It seems that they often find wood chips and mulch to be a perfect place to grow. The mature body of the fungus roughly measures 4 to 6 inches (10 by 15 cm) and can be a strong scarlet-red.
They have a mutually beneficial relationship with flies. The flies (and some other insects) enjoy eating the slimy spore mass (gleba). In turn, the insects help spread the stinkhorn’s spore.