Fleeting Wonders: Octopus Plants Invade England - Atlas Obscura

Fleeting Wonders: Octopus Plants Invade England - Atlas Obscura

Fleeting Wonders: Octopus Plants Invade England - Atlas Obscura

A lot of non-native plants and animals at least seem like they belong to starlings and dandelions in North America, squirrels in Europe, rats around the world. But some introduced species seem truly alien.

Meet clathrus archeri , your friendly neighborhood tentacled fungus that erupts from a slimy egg and smells like rotting flesh. Originally from Australia and New Zealand, the fungus crossed the ocean with military supplies during World War I and has been popping up around Britain over the past couple of months.

C. archeri has a variety of well-earned common names, including "octopus stinkhorn," "devil's finger," and "phalloid fungus." When deposited in a suitably decaying environment, its spores turn into clusters of gelatinous eggs, each about the size of a ping pong ball. Eventually, large pink fingers burst out of the top, covered with spore-filled brown goo. The stinky gunk attracts flies, which roll around in it, whiz off, and spread the spores to other spots, beginning the cycle again.

Lately, the octo-phallo-devil-shroom has been making cameos in the New Forest of southern England. It has also been known to visit North America, Asia, and other parts of Europe. If you see one, wave with five fingers to make it feel welcome.

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