One of the delights of our garden is the wild and sudden appearance of fungi. Of course there are always fungal cords, moulds, mildews and lichen on barks and leaves and leaf litter, but in the last four months, more than a dozen types of conspicuous fungi have emerged. Having done most of their growing underground, they pop up overnight, in unexpected places, and, if not eaten first by snails, slugs and caterpillars, have often died away within a few days.
Most of these conspicuous fungi take the familiar mushroom form. Some are long-lived cloud ear fungi, and scarlet bracket fungi, growing on rotten timber. In past years, I’ve also had bird’s nest fungus in the mulch: masses of glued-together cups, each like the calyx of a tiny acorn.
One fungus currently growing in the garden looks like a vanilla ice-cream cone with strawberry sauce. In cross-section it has a five centimeter diameter. The white is a porous structure that has hardened, and, after several weeks, the snails have not yet finished it. Perhaps someone can tell me its name.
Another unusual one is the orange phallic Lysurus mokusin. This is a stinkhorn. The spore is the brown gooey ‘gleba’ on its tip, which smells of rotting meat, and attracts flies.
You have to be quick to see the stinkhorn in its prime, because it grows underground, in a white ‘egg’, before sprouting very quickly on its fragile spongy stalk. Left undisturbed, it wilts within a couple of days. But the ones photographed above, which I found this morning, were cut down by brown furry caterpillars within a day. One was eaten while still in its egg. Curiously, the caterpillar ate the stalk and left the gleba, so the work of reproduction goes on regardless.