|Stinkhorns. Wake Co., NC. Oct 2012. Photo: Greg Florian|
|Clathrus columnatus. Wake Co., NC. Jan 2008|
|Sphaerobolus gleba on siding. Jackson Co., NC.|
Oct 2010. Photo: Christy Bredenkamp
|Sphaerobolus gleba on gardenia leaf. Wake Co., NC. Oct 2012.|
There's a lot more to these fungi than meets either the eye or nose. Their real "body" consists of a network of fine threads called hyphae that grow throughout the soil and mulch, where they decompose dead organic matter such as the mulch itself. The good news is that they do no harm to trees, shrubs, or bedding plants. The bad news is that there's no easy way to get rid of them. There are certainly no fungicides or disinfectants you can use in these situations. Removing stinkhorns as soon as they appear will help with the odor problem. Turning under the existing mulch and replacing it with composted mulch or a coarse pine bark mulch may help. Dr. Harry Hoitink of the Ohio State University has a very interesting fact sheet that includes a discussion of the microbial ecology of composts. One of his conclusions: "… water applied at the right time during composting, storage, and mulching can solve most of the fungal nuisance problems." Another very informative resource comes from Dr. Donald Davis at Penn State University. His Artillery Fungus FAQ gives details about this organism, how to deal with it, and suggestions from readers about how to remove the spots. It appears from reading his page that Dr. Davis has dealt with everyone from homeowners to attorneys about this issue.
Most fungi outdoors in North Carolina are going to be hidden from view over the winter, but keep the nuisance fungi in mind when planning your next landscaping project. You may be the next one to notice an unusual smell in the neighborhood.