Clathrus ruber: The Ultimate Mushroom Guide
About The Clathrus ruber Mushroom
Clathrus ruber is a species of fungus in the stinkhorn family and the type species of the genus Clathrus. It is commonly known as the latticed stinkhorn, the basket stinkhorn, or the red cage, alluding to the striking fruit bodies that are shaped somewhat like a round or oval hollow sphere with interlaced or latticed branches.
The fungus is saprobic, feeding off decaying woody plant material, and is often found alone or in groups in leaf litter on garden soil, grassy places, or on woodchip garden mulches.
The fruit body initially appears like a whitish "egg" attached to the ground at the base by cords called rhizomorphs. The egg has a delicate, leathery outer membrane enclosing the compressed lattice that surrounds a layer of olive-green spore-bearing slime called the gleba, which contains high levels of calcium that help protect the fruit body during development.
As the egg ruptures and the fruit body expands, the gleba is carried upward on the inner surfaces of the spongy lattice, and the egg membrane remains as a volva around the base of the structure.
The color of the fruit body range from pink to orange or red, results primarily from the carotenoid pigments lycopene and beta-carotene.
The smell of the mushroom is similar to rotting meat which attracts flies to spread its spores.
Edibility for Clathrus ruber has not been officially documented, its foul smell would dissuade most individuals from consuming it. In general, stinkhorn mushrooms are considered edible when still in the egg stage, and are even considered delicacies in some parts of Europe and Asia, where they are pickled raw and sold in markets as "devil's eggs".
Clathrus ruber Time-Lapse Video
Clathrus ruber Identification
Fruiting body 4-7 cm broad, rounded to pulvinate; peridium thin, white, irregularly bumpy over an inner gelatinous layer; fruiting body expanding and rupturing to reveal a pale orange to reddish-orange, hollow, fragile, lattice-work structure, the inner surface lined with a sticky, fetid-odored gleba; rhizomorphs (thickened mycelium) are characteristically found at the base of fruiting bodies.
Habitat solitary, scattered to gregarious in wood chips, occasionally in grass and disturbed ground; restricted to watered, urban habitats and probably an introduced species; fruiting during the warmer months of the year.
Clathrus ruber Taxonomy
First described scientifically by Pier Antonio Micheli (1679-1737), the Italian botanist who first discovered fungal spores, Clathrus ruber, was was given its current scientific name in 1801 by Christiaan Hendrick Persoon.
Synonyms of Clathrus ruber include Clathrus cancellatus L., (Clathrus cancellatus Tourn. ex Fr.), Clathrus flavescens Pers., Clathrus nicaeensis Barla, and Clathrus ruber var. flavescens (Pers.) Quadr. & Lunghini.
Clathrus ruber Etymology
The generic name Clathrus means 'a cage', while ruber means red, a rerefence to the color of most of the fungi in this genus of stinkhorn-like fungi.
In France this strange stinkhorn is known as Coeur de Sorcière, which means Sorceror's Heart. The red color, which is due to the presence of carotenes (the chemicals that give carrots their characteristic deep orange-red color) seems only to reinforce the smell of this stinkiest of mushrooms: that of rotting meat. The red color might even, in being similar to the color of meat, be a further attraction to flies.
Clathrus ruber Removal
Stinkhorns typically become a problem during cool, damp weather. Where winters are cold, they often sprout during late summer or early fall. In milder climates, winter rain triggers their arrival. Begin monitoring your yard at the appropriate time and knock the stalks over as soon as they sprout, before their spore masses ripen. If they've already reached the smelly stage, put them in sealable plastic bags and put them in the trash. Handle them with gloves so you don't bring the smell indoors.
When you've removed the visible stinkhorns, rake back the surrounding mulch or plant debris and examine the soil. Dig up any white egg structures you find and seal them in plastic bags for disposal in the trash. This eliminates any short-term sprouting, but it doesn't solve the problem. Before they reach the egg and fruiting stages, stinkhorns grow as white mycelial mats that break down plant material. Eventually, these mats form new eggs and the battle resumes.
Wood mulch is a favorite stinkhorn meal, so consider replacing it with a noninvasive evergreen ground cover, such as cotoneaster (Cotoneaster cochleatus), which grows in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 5 through 7. For warmer climates, Korean boxwood "Tide Hill" (Buxus sinica var. insularis "Tide Hill," USDA zones 5 though 9) is an attractive choice. As an added precaution, clear your yard of dead branches, stumps and roots that might feed stinkhorn mycelia.
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