The spherical or flattened glutinous egg forms on or just below the ground surface, and if dissected reveals a fully developed compressed fruiting body awaiting the right conditions to emerge and mature. The image above shows the Starfish Stinkhorn, Aseroe rubra, emerged from the ruptured 'egg'.
Starfish or Anemone Fungus, Aseroe rubra, is found in Australia's eastern states in moist mulched gardens as well as alpine grasslands and mountain woodlands. As far as I am aware, it is not found in the west, but if residents of the western and dry inland parts of Australia have seen this growing in their areas I'd be interested to hear about it.
There are more pictures and observations of Aseroe rubra at my Australian Fung Blog.
My first sighting of the Starfish Fungus was in the moist rainforest of Barrington Tops National Park east of the Hunter Valley, but since then I have found several, and often massed displays, at the Hunter Region Botanic Gardens. The preferred habitat of many stinkhorns is mulched gardens, so therefore they can make regular appearances in home gardens.Reproduction
Stinkhorn fungi stink for a reason. Flies and other insects that are attracted to the smell of rotting flesh or faeces are drawn to the foul odour of the fungi. The odour emanates from a greenish-brown gooey substance (gleba) that contains spores. Visiting insects find this slime delectable and trample in it as they feast, then unwittingly spread the fungus spores enabling the stinkhorn life-cycle to continue elsewhere.
Phallic-looking fruiting bodies emerge from egg-like sacs and can elongate several inches within a period of a few hours, making these striking and almost obscene growths a novelty in suburban gardens and lawns. The novelty soon wears off, however, as the pong of the fungi reaches the kitchen window. But I will admit that my olfactory glands were not offended and I think their unsavoury reputation is somewhat exaggerated.
I have only encountered one flurry of Lantern Fungi, Lysurus mokusin, at the Hunter Region Botanic Gardens. The tip of the pinkish-orange stalk is branched into 4 to 6 short arms which often remain joined. The number of arms corresponds with the number of angular ribs on the stalk and the gooey brown spore mass is concentrated in the vertical depressions between the arms.
An aging Lantern Stinkhorn with spreading arms
Mutinus borneensis is a white stinkhorn, narrower than the previous two orange phallic fungi I've illustrated here. On emerging from the small glutinous sac, it also elongates at a remarkable rate, attracting flies to the orange-brown pointed tip coated in brown spore bearing gleba.
Wood chips and organic matter provide ideal habitat for stinkhorn fungi, so mulched gardens and local parks are likely to support occasional outbreaks of these strange but fascinating growths. Observe them if you have the opportunity. In some parts of the world it is reputed that these jelly eggs and spongy fetid fungi end up on the dinner table, but not in this household!
Digging them out or poisoning them will not rid your garden of these odd creations. They will be fleeting, so enjoy their brief existence.
Via my blog counter, I notice that there are many international visitors to this page on some of Australia's interesting stinkhorn fungi. I would be most interested to know if my pictures and observations have helped others identify stinkhorns from other countries. If readers feel inclined to leave a brief message via the 'comments' tag below or my email contact on the right of the page, I would be most appreciative.