The Stinkhorn – A Mushroom Only A Mother Could Love

Learn about Stinkhorn Mushrooms in an instant with this information, activity, and free printable!

It “hatches.” It smells like death. Some have a questionable shape. What’s not to love about stinkhorn mushrooms?

Stinkhorn mushrooms like to grow on rotting organic matter, so you typically find them in your mulch beds. But don’t worry, if you don’t want these stinky ‘shrooms showing up in your flower bed, you can replace your hardwood mulch with pine needles.

Like all mushrooms, what we see is only a small part of the actual fungus. Under the ground, there are thousands of threads called mycelium. Every so often, the fungus sends up a fruiting body we can see to release spores so that it can spread.

In the case of the stinkhorn mushroom, it sends up a young fruiting body that almost looks like an egg. As it matures, the mushroom appears to “hatch” from the egg, rapidly growing! One variety of stinkhorns looks has a white stem with a large olive green cap that is covered with slime (pictured on the left). The other looks like a reddish-orange whiffle ball (pictured on the right). There are other varieties of stinkhorn that resemble octopus tentacles, crab claws, Chinese lanterns, and more.

All varieties emit a fetid scent meant to attract flies and beetles that aid in the spread of the stinkhorn spores. And thanks to that smell, chances are very high that you will smell this mushroom far before you spot it!

Fun Fact – The Stinkhorn mushroom can go from young “egg” form to mature mushroom in less than two hours!

Related Homeschool Science Activities

Keep the learning going with these science activities!

  • Mushroom Hunt – Head outside to look for the fruiting body of a fungus in your backyard! Take a picture and use those to try to identify what you have found. Do not eat or touch your finds, unless you are absolutely certain they are safe. Many mushrooms can be toxic.

Links to Research