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Flowers, Fruits, and Frass

Local and statewide information on a variety of current topics for home gardeners and market growers.
stink horn fungi
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Stinkhorn Fungi

A beneficial organism known as the stinkhorn fungi (Mutinus elengans) was found in Sarah's Garden by Mary Jane Bohall this fall. White egg like masses were found growing in mulch and topsoil under the heirloom roses. Perplexed by the strange growth that seems to appear every year, a picture of the penny sized egg masses were destined for the University of Illinois Distance Diagnostic through Digital Imaging System. University of Illinois Plant Diagnostician, Stephanie Porter quickly replied that what Mary Jane had dug up was the first stages of "Stinkhorn Fung. " Stink horn fungi ready to release spores are much easier to identify because of its unusual shape and foul odor.

The fungi are beneficial to soil ecology because it breaks down mulch and tends to appear during the cooler months of the season. The egg masses turn into a protruding fungal structure that assaults any gardener's sense of smell. However, this aroma attracts flies and ants in an effort to spread the spores (fungal reproduction) to different parts of the garden.

As a gardener, revel in the unusual surprise of nature and health of your garden. If you do not wish to allow these offensive visitors from returning, plant more ground covers and use less mulch. It is likely, Mrs. Sarah Davis had this visitor in her garden over 139 years ago because she did incorporated native plants, topsoil and horse manure into her garden. For more information on Sarah's historical garden please visit

Photo Provdied by McLean County Master Gardner Mary Jane Bohall

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