What You Should Know
Phallus impudicus is a type of fungus in the Phallaceae family that is easily recognized by its phallic shape and strong odor. It is commonly found in wooded areas and mulched gardens in Europe and North America, appearing from summer to late autumn. The tall, white fruiting structure has a slimy, dark olive-colored conical head, called the gleba, which contains spores that attract insects with its carrion-like scent.
Despite its foul smell, it is not usually poisonous, and immature mushrooms are eaten in parts of France and Germany. At the egg stage, pieces of the inner layer can be eaten raw and have a crisp, crunchy texture with a radish taste. Phallus Impudicus is not considered to be toxic or poisonous to dogs.
P. impudicus has potential medicinal properties to reduce the risk of blood clot formation in breast cancer patients by preventing platelet aggregation. It was also used in medieval times as a cure for gout and as a love potion. In Northern Montenegro, the fungus is used to make bulls stronger before bull fighting contests and is believed to be a potent aphrodisiac for young bulls.
The gelatinous mass of the witch's egg has an incredible property! If you rub it (fresh) on your hands and face, your skin immediately becomes creamy, almost soapy-soft. The jelly is extremely moisture-binding; this effect persists even after hours.
Sometimes, older stinkhorn mushrooms are mistaken for yellow morels because of their similar appearance, but stinkhorns usually grow in summer and can be identified by their slime.
Other names: Witch’s egg, Common Stinkhorn, Devil’s egg, Hexeneier, German (Gemeine Stinkmorchel).
Phallus impudicus Mushroom Identification
Immature Fruiting Body
The immature fruiting body of this fungus looks like a whitish to purplish "egg" that is 1.18 to 2.36 inches (3 to 6 cm) high and 0.98 to 1.57 inches (2.5 to 4 cm) wide. The egg-shaped body is attached to white to purplish rhizomorphs and contains a whitish stinkhorn to be encased in a brownish gelatinous substance.
Mature Fruiting Body
When mature, the fruiting body becomes cylindric and phallic in shape, with a distinct head structure sitting atop the stem.
The head can be 3-6 cm high and is conic, broadly conic, cylindric with a rounded apex, or somewhat truncated. It becomes perforated at the apex, with the perforation surrounded by a sterile whitish "lip" and pitted and pocketed in a reticulate pattern. The surface is whitish but covered with a thick layer of dark brown spore slime, while the undersurface of the head is whitish and not covered in spore slime.
The stem is 2.76 to 4.33 inches (7 to 11 cm) high and 0.79 to 1.18 inches (2 to 3 cm) thick, tapering sharply at the base and enclosed in a whitish, brownish, purplish, or reddish brown volva 1.18 to 1.97 inches (3 to 5 cm) high. The stem is dry, white to whitish, finely pocketed with 1-3 chambers per mm, and hollow. The flesh is 2-5 mm thick, whitish, and minutely chambered.
This fungus has an unpleasant and strong odor.
It is a saprobic fungus that grows alone or in groups in various locations, including gardens, meadows, lawns, and cultivated areas. It is also found in wooded areas in Europe. It grows during the spring through fall, but can overwinter in warmer climates. The species was originally described in Sweden and is widely distributed in North America and Europe, with reported sightings in Central and South America, as well as Asia.
The dark olive slimy gleba contains yellow spores.
Iron salts negative on all surfaces. KOH negative on all surfaces.
Spores 3–4 x 1–1.5 µm; subcylindric; smooth; without oil droplets; hyaline in KOH. Sphaerocysts of the pseudostipe 30–70 µm; irregularly subglobose; smooth; walls 0.5–1 µm thick; hyaline in KOH. Hyphae of the volva 2–6 µm wide; smooth; thin-walled; hyaline in KOH; clamp connections present. Hyphae of the head composed of chains of inflated cells 10–30 µm wide; terminal cells subglobose to widely cylindric; smooth, thin-walled, hyaline in KOH.
Phallus impudicus Look-Alikes
It is much smaller in size and has a milder odor. Its cap surface has a honeycomb pattern, and the underside of the gleba is orange instead of white.
Has a violet-colored volva and is typically shorter on average.
Phallus impudicus Taxonomy and Etymology
The name Phallus impudicus was given by Carl Linnaeus in 1753 to a group of fungi with fruitbodies that look like a penis. The word "impudicus" means "shameless" or "immodest" in Latin, which describes the phallic appearance of these fungi.
Phallus impudicus Synonyms and Varietes
Phallus vulgaris P. Micheli (1729), Nova plantarum genera, p. 201, tab. 83
Phallus volvatus Scopoli (1760), Flora carniolica, Edn 1, p. 48, n° 1
Phallus foetidus Lamarck (1778), Flore française ou description succincte de toutes les plantes qui croissent naturellement en France, Edn 1, 1, p. 121
Phallus pervius Paulet (1808) , Traité des champignons, 2, p. 416, tab. 191, fig. 1-3
Morellus impudicus (Linnaeus) Eaton (1818), A manual of botany for the Northern and Middle States, Edn 2, p. 324
Ithyphallus impudicus (Linnaeus) E. Fischer (1890), Neue denkschriften der allgemeinen schweizerischen Gesellschaft für die gesammten naturwissenschaften, 32(2), p. 84
Phallus impudicus Video
Photo 1 - Author: Patrick Hacker (Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International)
Photo 2 - Author: Conrad Altmann (Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International)
Photo 3 - Author: Holger Krisp (Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International)
Photo 4 - Author: Andre Hosper (Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International)
Photo 5 - Author: Maksim Shumskih (Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International)
All photos were taken by the Ultimate Mushroom team and can be used for your own purposes under the Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International license.