April 16, 2013

The Bridal Veil Mushroom (Phallus indusiatus)

peru amazon nature fungus phallus indusiatus
The Bridal Veil Mushroom. Image by Phil Torres

The Bridal Veil Mushroom is odd in so many ways. Here's the countdown:

5. The smell.

Imagine a dead animal mixed with mushroom and garlic? That's the bridal veil's smell. In fact, almost every time I've encountered one it has been from tracking down that unique odor.

4. The appearance. 

These images should help prove the point: it is strange and fascinating to look at. The more distinct mushroom look up-top and a cascading eggshell white 'veil' down below (called the 'indusium'), this is a fungus you won't forget.

3. The natural history.

This mushroom is only in this visual fruiting body form for a few days, spending most of its time as a fungus underground feeding on rotting wood. Also, it isn't just found in the Amazon tropics- it's found in the tropics throughout the world!

2. What feeds on it.

Why have such an odor? To attract flies which help spread its spores. In fact, some other Phallus species have a different odor that attracts different flies.  Look below and you'll see that it's not just flies that feed on it, but moths do too! This is not typical moth-food, and it would be very interesting to see what nutrients this moth is getting, as well as what function they serve for spreading the spores.

1. The name

If you know what the term "phallic" means, you'll see why these mushrooms have the genus name "Phallus."

Image by Ulrike Fischer

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