If you happen to smell rotting flesh as you walk through the woods, it may well come from an aptly named Stinkhorn (Phallus impudicus).
The unpleasant smell is produced by the thick sticky brown mass which contains the spores, covering the top. Flies are attracted to it and the sticky substance sticks to their feet and thereby the fungal spores are transported to another location. It is a unique method of spore dispersal.
Stinkhorns can grow in groups or be solitary, and mature very rapidly, often overnight, although the entire structure is not very robust or long lasting and it may be a case of ‘here today and gone tomorrow’.
Whilst living in a somewhat less liberal Victorian England, Henrietta, one of the great Charles Darwin’s daughters, was horrified by the phallic looking Stinkhorn fungus. She did her best to tread on, and squash, all the ones she saw growing – or else she collected them in a napkin covered basket to bring them home to burn. She especially targeted those in their own garden, so as to stop the maid servants in the house being influenced by them. She even singlehandedly began a campaign to have all fruiting bodies of the fungus removed from the English countryside.