Field Photo Friday!

This post is a bit of a throwback of pictures taken while my future wife and I went exploring around the trails of DeSoto National Forest just south of Hattiesburg, Mississippi. On this particular trip, like many, we hiked along a trail tending to veer off in search of things of interest. For my wife, it tends to be artistic pictures of trees, flowers, and natural landscapes. However, for me it tends to be a distraction in birding, flipping logs and rocks, and a general curiosity for critters hiding around the next corner. On this particular trip we found this jewel of a fungus. It was detected by its foul carrion smell and bright red-orange color.

This beauty is Clathrus columnatus also known as the Columned Stinkhorn. Belonging to the Clathraceae family this group of stinkhorns is characterized by it’s branched stems and lattice-work structures. Along with Phallaceae, a related group, these fungi disperse spores in a foul but interesting way. The odor emitted by these fungi attracts flies and other insects at which time the insects either eat pieces of the fungus or end up covering their legs in spores. Thus, the spores are defecated or spread when the insects land propagating and dispersing the stinkhorn.

As I was doing some investigating about this species I came across a particularly interesting incident that took place on October 31, 1889. In the Botanical Gazette published in 1890 there is a story from Professor Gerald McCarthy of Raleigh, North Carolina in which he describes several hogs dying from ingesting a fungus. He states that the fungus “…grows in patches in oak woods and openings and is greedily sought after and eaten by hogs who are generally killed by it within 12 or 15 hours.” Investigation of the specimen sent proved to be that of C. columnatus Bosc. The description later goes on to inquire as to whether other hogs in the Southeast have a fondness for this species too. An interesting idea and I would be curious if this is a common occurrence within farm animals, particularly swine. Below is the Botanical Gazette with the above mentioned quote on page 45.

References:

Mushroom expert website
      http://www.mushroomexpert.com/phallaceae.html 
Coulter, J.M., Barnes, C.R., and Arthur, J.C. 1890. Poisonous action of Clathrus            
      columnatus. Botanical Gazette v. 15 :45-46.
Coker, W.C., Couch, J.N. 1928. The Gasteromycetes of the Eastern United States and
     Canada. Chapel Hill, University of North Carolina Press. 
Marshall, N.L. 1904. The Mushroom Book: A Popular Guide to the Identification and Study
     of our Commoner Fungi, with Special Emphasis on Edible Variates. New York:New
     York. Doubleday, Page and Co. pg.124.
  
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~ by npvbroek on 04/22/2011.

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