Stinkhorns love humans. These mushrooms can eke out a living in natural habitats, but they really thrive in artificial ones like mulch beds. Unfortunately, humans don’t feel the same way about stinkhorns. We tend to find them offensive, thanks to their foul odors and phallic shapes. Perhaps no one disliked stinkhorns more than Etty Darwin (Charles Darwin’s granddaughter); legend has it that she would diligently remove stinkhorns from her property and burn them to discourage impure thoughts in her servants.1 Appropriately (or perhaps inappropriately), the most common mulch stinkhorns belong to two genera named for these mushrooms’ offensive shapes: Phallus and Mutinus.* Of those mushrooms, Phallus rubicundus and Mutinus elegans are the most frequently encountered in North American gardens.
mushrooms known for their odor
Clitocybe odora is easily recognized by its pale blue-green color and its distinctive anise-like odor. The mushroom is edible, but not very many people go looking for it. C. odora is sometimes called the “Aniseed Funnel” or “Blue-Green Clitocybe,” but most people refer to it by its scientific name.
This otherwise boring polypore has an incredibly strong anise-like odor. Native Americans of the Northern Plains considered this mushroom to have healing and spiritual properties. Haploporus odorus can be found growing on hardwood trees in northern boreal forests. In North America, it prefers the Diamond Willow tree, which gives it the common name “Diamond Willow Fungus.” Another English common name is the “Aniseed Polypore,” which refers to its unique aroma.
Mushrooms come in some surprising flavors. Probably the most unusual flavors are found in the group of mushrooms known as “Candy Caps.” These mushrooms taste/smell like maple syrup, butterscotch, camphor, burnt sugar, or curry. Thanks to their pleasant odors, these edible mushrooms are usually used in dessert dishes! I recently had the opportunity to taste some Candy Cap ice cream and was astounded by the intense maple syrup flavor provided by the mushrooms!
As the name suggests, this group is made up of the most pungent fungi. The defining characteristic of this group is that they all produce a dark, smelly slime that carries their spores. This slime smells like rotting flesh for the express purpose of attracting flies and beetles. The insects walk around in the spore slime and then fly away, carrying some of the mushroom’s spores on their legs. After visiting a stinkhorn, the insects either land on real rotting material or on another stinkhorn. In the first case, the rotting material serves as a substrate on which the spores can grow. When the insect lands on another stinkhorn, this allows for cross-fertilization (much like insect pollination of flowers). The other factor that all stinkhorns have in common is that they have a button stage. All stinkhorns form a small, white, oval-shaped structure, or “egg” that contains the basic form...