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Stinkhorn - Phallus impudicus

Stinkhorn - Phallus impudicus

Main features

  • Starts off as a spherical white egg

  • Found in leaf litter near dead and decaying tree stumps

  • Egg contains embryonic mushroom surrounded by clear jelly

  • Once emerged from egg, strongly resembles male phallus

  • Can reach 15 to 25cm tall and 2 to 5cm wide

  • Top off fruit body is covered in grey-black goo

  • Goo is foul smelling and is spore mass

  • Once flies have eaten black goo, a honeycomb like structure remains

  • Smells of nothing when in egg stage, but of rotting flesh when mature

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Stinkhorn - Phallus impudicus

Edible/inedible mushroom - novice

Other common names: Common Stinkhorn, Devil's Egg, Demon Egg, Daemon Egg, Witch's Egg, Deadman's Cock, Prike Mushroom


Scientific name meaning: Phallus, is from the Greek Phallos, meaning the penis. The species name is from the Latin words In, meaning without, and Pudicus, meaning shame or modest - literally the "shameless penis"

Season - when will I find it? Summer to Winter

Habitat - where will I find it? Often in leaf litter and near to dead and decaying tree stumps

Description - what does it look like? 

Growth: The Stinkhorn starts of in a spherical white egg. When sliced from top to bottom, the embryonic mushroom can be seen and looks almost lie a cat's eye with a white centre. The embryonic mushroom is surrounded by clear jelly

Fruitbody: After the fruit body emerges from the egg, it strongly resembles a human phallus. It has a hollow stem that resembles old polystyrene that has a stinky grey-black foul smelling goo at its top.

Flies feed on the goo, and once it has all been eaten and stuck to their bodies, a whitish honeycomb-like structure remains.

The fruit body is between 15 - 25cm in height and 2-5cm in width

Flesh: Off white

Smell: Rotting flesh when mature, none when in young egg stage

Spore colour: Black - foul smelling goo is spore mass

Possible lookalikes When in its egg stage, the Stinkhorn could be confused with young Amanitas, but these lack the layer of clear goo under the egg's skin.

Could also be mistaken for Earthballs, which are toxic, but these are purple or black inside, and, Puffballs, but these are pure white inside, or yellow to grey when gone over.

In addition, there are other Stinkhorn family members in the that it could easily be confused with that are considered either edible or inedible in the egg phase

Use as a food Young Stinkhorns in their egg stage are considered edible. In some countries they are pickled or dried. In our opinion, there are mush better wild mushrooms to consume!

Use in medicine Some research has shown  Stinkhorn to be effective in treating thrombosis. In folk medicine, it has been used as an aphrodisiac and a cure for impotence

If you are suffering from any ailment or need medical advice, please see your General Practitioner

Other uses Was once rubbed on the necks of fighting bulls in the belief it would make them stronger and breeding bulls to make them more virile

Hazards Do not consume once mature or in late egg stage when they are considered potentially toxic

Importance to other species The Stinkhorn provides a source of nutrition for flies

Always stay safe when foraging. You need to be 100% sure of your identification, 100% sure that your foraged item is edible, and 100% sure that you are not allergic to it (it is good practice to always try a small amount of any new food you are consuming). If in doubt, leave it out!

Stinkhorn - Phallus impudicus - egg cross section
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