Mutinus caninus (Kleine stinkzwam (BE) / Dog Stinkhorn (EN) / Gemeine Hundsrute (DE) / Satyre du chien (FR)) is a fungus in the Phallaceae family. "Mutinus" is the diminutive of "muto", a latin word for Penis and "caninus" means "dog-like" in Latin. Its common names in French and German also hint at its resemblance to a dog penis.
Like all members in the Phallaceae family, the fruiting body begins as an "egg" stage, from which the phallic-looking fruiting body emerges over the course of just a few hours. As it becomes mare and more erect the black slimy mass of spores on the cap begins to mature and begins to smell like rotting meat. This smell makes the Dutch common name "Stinkzwam" and the English common name "stinkhorn" very appropriate. This smell attracts flies, which think they're getting a great meal of some dead animal. Instead they get a portion of spore mass. More importantly for the fungus, some of the spores stick to the legs and mouth parts of the flies. Eventually the flies land on some real rotting material and the spores are transferred to a substrate they can grow on. The fly may visit more than one stinkhorn, and this helps to ensure cross-fertilization among the members of the species. You may see some very striking similarities with the pollination activities of insects on flowers here. The stinkhorns seem to be absolutely dependent on the flies for the dissemination and mating of their spores; unlike most basidiomycetes, there is no wind dispersal of spores.
This species can be found growing in small groups on wood debris, or in leaf litter, during summer and autumn in Europe and eastern North America. It is not generally considered edible, although there are reports of the immature 'eggs' being consumed.
Image: Schilde (BE) - 03/10/2010
© Johan Dierckx
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