The Devil’s What?!

(photo taken at Moraine State Park 2 Sep 2021, by Kate St. John)

3 September 2021

Seven of us retired ladies went birding yesterday morning at Moraine State Park. After a flurry of warblers we found this pink fleshy thing on the ground, the size an index finger.

As we tried to identify it someone suggested a fungus called devil’s fingers. Linda uploaded a photo to iNaturalist and the answer came back right away: the devil’s dipstick.

Umm, yah. “Small devil.” We dissolved in laughter.

After we’d wiped the laughing tears from our eyes we googled for more.

Mutinus elegans, a member of the Phallaceae family, is also known as elegant stinkhorn or headless stinkhorn.

As the egg-shaped fruiting body matures it ruptures and the spongy spore-bearing stalk emerges; fully grown, it may be from 0.4 to 5.9 inches long and 0.6 to 0.8 inches thick. The stalk is hollow and strongly wrinkled overall; its shape is cylindrical below, but it gradually tapers to a narrow apex with a small opening at the tip.

Wikipedia account: Mutinus elegans

The one we found was an old specimen. When new, the stalk stands up and the upper third is coated with a stinky greenish-brown spore-containing slime that attracts flies to bear away the spores. Here’s a newer specimen, photographed in Florida.

There are even more suggestive specimens here and here.

The devil’s what?!

p.s. At least one of the ladies in our group is not retired but she is a grandmother so I invoked my poetic license to describe us.

(top photo by Kate St. John, second photo from Wikimedia Commons; click on the caption to see the original)

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