And God Created ...

The Common Stinkhorn

David Everson

In the creation of the world, God had a plan for all parts of that creation. This includes the death of living things. How can organic materials return to the dust of the earth and be made available for use by other life forms? In order to accomplish this He created the fungi. This very diverse group of organisms plays a most important role in the ecology and proper balance of the living world - that of the decomposition of dead things. Without these fungi, the dead bodies of all living things would just build up and never decompose. The fungi are used by humans for food, i.e. mushrooms; they are sources of medicines and drugs, and they can attack the bodies of humans, our animals, and our plant crops. So, as a group, they are varied and valuable to the world God created. In this important group of organisms there is one that has been created with a very unusual group of characteristics. Let's look at the common stinkhorn fungi.

Growing in the forests and gardens around the world is a most unusual fungus, the common stinkhorn. The common stinkhorn is one of a larger group of fungi because it is made up of many specimens. They are classified with the Basidiomycetes, which are fungi that produce spores of a structure called the basidia. The common stinkhorn goes one step further to spread its reproductive structures, by attracting living things to distribute the spores. The common stinkhorn signals a feast for other organisms by releasing a strong odor of food; the only problem is that this food would be rotting. The spore-carrying animals that the stinkhorn is interested in attracting are flies. The basidia or "cap" of the stinkhorn is covered with a foul smelling slime laden with spores. Flies, as well as some other insects, find this slime irresistible and eat it quickly. In the process they become covered with the stinkhorn spores, and, as they leave, they spread the spores to other areas.

The stinkhorn begins life underground in shallow soil or dead leaves as an "egg." The egg develops from the immature mushroom's universal veil which develops from the spore in the ground where it consumes organic matter. In the egg stage the stinkhorn is edible and considered a delicacy in some eastern countries. When the stalk begins to grow, it will do so at an unbelievable rate. Bursting forth from the egg early in the morning, it can grow up to 10 inches within just a few hours. The height of the stalk seems to have been created to get the foul-smelling, slime-covered cap up into the good breeze so flies can find it better. In just a few hours the slime has been eaten and the spores carried off, but that is not the end of the stinkhorn.

The stinkhorn stalk is also edible, and several types of insects rapidly consume it so that, within less than a day, the stinkhorn has just about left all evidence of its existence. With God's creation of the common stinkhorn, we see some amazing variety which He has placed around us, and we can know that He is the great I AM! -Rt 1 Box 116A, Belington, WV 26250.


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