Sunday, April 24, 2011

Another Alien Invasion??

My phone rang the other day and it was my good friend Dennis. He said he needed to pick my brain.
Okay, whatcha got?
An alien is growing in my yard.
I wasn't sure I completely understood what he said. So I asked him to describe it.
It is red, slimy and has tentacles coming out of it. It also has an egg shaped body and it is growing in my yard.
I had NO idea of what in the world it was. It was coming out of some mulch, that he had made out of some pine trees from his yard. I figured it was some kind of fungus, but had never heard of anything that looked like what he was describing. I asked him to send me some pictures and I would research it and maybe touch base with some of my fellow garden folks.
Well, a little while later he sent me a text telling me what it was, he found it online.
It is a Starfish Fungus, also known as Anemone Stinkhorn and Sea Anemone Fungus. Botanically it is known as Aseroe rubra, meaning (literally) ‘disgusting red’.
Here are the pictures he ended up sending me:

In the United States it is common in Hawaii and occasionally in South Carolina and North Carolina. It is also widely distributed in Australia from southeastern Queensland through New South Wales and eastern Victoria. Apparently there have also been reports of it in Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi, so it is unknown whether it has actually been introduced or is native to certain areas.
This type of fungus is Saprobic, meaning it survives on decomposing dead or decaying organic material.
The Aseroe rubra was the first species of fungus to be collected and described from Australia. Jacques Labillardière (1755-1834), a member of the D'Entrecasteaux expedition, collected the specimen on May 1st,1792 at Recherche Bay in southern Tasmania and published an account of it in 1800.
It Starts out as a partly buried whitish egg-shaped structure 1.25 inches in diameter, it bursts open as a hollow white stalk with reddish arms that erupt and grow to a height of 4 inches. There are some species that start out as pinkish to purplish or brownish egg. It then matures into the reddish star-shaped structure with 6 to 10 arms up to 1.5 inches. If this wasn't creepy enough, the 6 to 10 arms then divide, kind of like this:
The top of the fungus is covered with dark olive-brown slime, which smells of rotting meat, which attracts flies and other insects, who then disperse the mushroom's spores.

It apparently likes acidic soil, hence why my friend found it growing on Pine mulch. Through they smell terrible they are not considered poisonous, in fact I have read that they are edible when in their egg stage of development. On many other websites it is considered inedible, why somebody would want to even consider eating one, I don't know.
If the smell bothers you, try digging up the eggs (immature fruiting bodies) and disposing of them before it becomes a problem. This is quick, but temporary. Hardwood mulch could be a longer term solution. I kind of like the looks of them, I have thought about pretending to be a fly and propagating one in my yard.

There is much argument as to where this thing actually came from. My friend had never seen one before nor had I. We figure that a fly from some exotic land must have come by ship and left a present in his yard.
The last thing that Dennis said to me was, we really need to close and protect our borders!
Amen Dennis, Amen
Happy Growing!


  1. Pretty neat. If it likes acidic soil, I doubt I ever see it in Kansas.

  2. oh my goodness, that's so stinkin' cool!!!!

  3. I know this is an ancient post, but I just found three of these in my yard. Given that I have lived here for more than 20 years, I've wandered freely over much of the area, wild and otherwise, I've never seen anything like it, so my strictly anecdotal experience says that this sucker ain't local. I've lived on this land since I was in the 2nd grade... this is a new one for me!

    1. Heather, Have you recently (past year or two) brought in any mulch?
      It is possible that it was brought in that way.
      If not, it must have been brought in on some meandering critter.

  4. Errr... I'm in Georgia, by the way, central Georgia. ;)

  5. I stick with my previous reply. Thanks for letting us know.

  6. I just found this in my yard, and I'm also in central Georgia. It's growing out of tree mulch (trees cut from my yard, so not imported).

  7. I live and grew up in Central Georgia and I have seen these for around 35yrs in my yards, never in mulch though, just out in the yard in the grass. My parents were told they spread underground and sprout up kind of like how spider plants grow, not sure how true that is though.

    1. Hey Tricia,
      No they are spread by spores with flies, not underground.
      I would be willing to guess they are native to Georgia.