Common Stinkhorn, Stinkhorn Mushroom, Stinky Penis Mushroom, Witch’s Egg, Witches Egg, Devil’s Egg, Deadman’s Cock, Hexeneier
Found throughout much of Europe and North America. Common and widespread in Britain and Ireland.
Where to find Stinkhorn
Woodland, mulched gardens and dunes.
When to find Stinkhorn
Immature ‘eggs’ late spring to autumn.
How to identify Stinkhorn
The Stinkhorn grows from a spherical white ‘egg’. The fruit body as a whole resembles a human phallus. The cap is cone-shaped and covered by a smooth layer of olive-green slime, which gradually becomes off-white, revealing the honeycomb-like pattern underneath. The stem is long, thin, hollow and white in colour. The base is bulbous. The smell is strong and putrid when mature, but is neutral in its ‘egg’ stage. The spores are thoroughly mixed with dark slime.
In its ‘egg’ stage, the Stinkhorn could be mistaken with young Amanitas (Amanita sp.), but these will not have the olive-green spores surrounded by slime. It could also be confused wirh Puffballs (Lycoperdon sp.), which are spongey and totally white inside or Earthballs (Scleroderma sp.), which are black inside.
Some members of the Stinkhorn family (Phallaceae), such as the Dune Stinkhorn (Phallus hadriani) and the Dog Stinkhorn (Mutinus caninus) are similar but have different colour.
In addition, Stinkhorn resembles superficially to Black Morel (Morchella importuna) and False Morel (Gyromitra esculenta), but the smell should avoid confusion.
All about Stinkhorn
Stinkhorn gets its name for a reason: it looks like a horn – and it really stinks. The binomial name is even more descriptive: Phallus impudicus, what roughly translates to ‘shamelessly phallic’.
The unfortunate shape and vile smell of mature stinkhorn might lead you to think that these mushrooms are poisonous, but in fact they are not. In China, the related Phallus indusiatus is a choice mushroom regarded as an aphrodisiac.There is also culinary interest in some European countries like France and Germany.
Medicinal properties of Stinkhorn
In folk medicine, this mushroom has a long history of use in Europe. Presumably because of its shape, Stinkhorn has been used to cure erectile dysfunction and as an aphrodisiac, however there is no science to back up those medicinal claims.
Culinary uses and recipes with Stinkhorn
We are interested in the egg-shaped immature fruiting body that remains attached to the ground by a cord-like mycelial strand, sometimes only partly buried in pine needles and leaf litter.
Make sure you are actually dealing with the right ‘eggs’, as immature death cap (Amanita phalloides) or puffball could confuse the inexperienced forager. They are easy to tell apart, as the Stinkhorn is always filled with jelly and a green mass of spores – that in mature spcimens you’ll almost certainly smell before you see it.
The raw white kernel (receptaculum) found in the ‘egg’ stage is odourless, crunchy like a water chestnut and has an earthy mild radish flavour that resembles like a veg more than a mushroom. You can eat them raw and tossed into salads or chop them up and put them in noodle soups and stews.
Safe foraging of Stinkhorn
Though Stinkhorn Mushroom is not poisonous, it’s best eaten at egg stage, before the scent becomes so strong that makes ir inedible.
Ecological importance of Stinkhorn
The Stinkhorn provides a source of food for blowflies and other insects.
The mushroom also helps to recycle nutrients into the soil.