Phallus indusiatus – Stinkhorn Fungus

Kingdom – Fungi

Filo – Basidiomycota

Class – Basidiomycetes

Order – Phallales

Family – Phallaceae

Phallus indusiatus
Phallus indusiatus

Phallus Indusiatus is a Tropical fungus species, it has also previously been known as Dictyophora indusiata.  It has many common names including Fish Phallaceae, the bamboo mushroom (pronounced Zhu Sūn in Chinese), veiled lady mushroom, basket stinkhorn, net stinkhorn, crinoline stinkhorn, long net stinkhorn and bamboo fungus.   The family Phallaceae are more commonly known as stinkhorns.

Phallus indusiatus
Phallus indusiatus

They can be found solitarily or all the way up to large communities.  The Phallus Indusiatus grows in soil rich in organic matter and therefore is predominantly found in tropical forests.  They are located in many different areas around the world including Costa Rica, Central and South America, Mexico, Caribbean islands, Australia, Africa and Asia.

Phallus indusiatus Community
Phallus indusiatus Community

Phallus indusiatus begins life as a small egg-shaped fungus from which a basidioma appears which can fully emerge over a matter of hours, and has a short life span of around 12 hours before decaying back into the ground.

The full structure of Phallus indusiatus
The full structure of Phallus indusiatus

This stinkhorn fungus has a pale netted indusium (veil) which hangs down from its cap and tends to grow very long, sometimes all the way to the ground.  This netted skirt can be rigid or flaccid and is sometimes withdrawn towards the cap of the fungus.  The fruit body grows to 15-25cms tall, is a pale creamy to white colour and has a spongy texture.

At immaturity the cap tends to be smooth and as it progresses and matures it becomes holed and pitted.  The conical (or sometimes bell-shaped) cap can grow up to 4cms in diameter and is covered in a greenish-brown slimy coating full of spores which gives off the odour of rotting flesh, hence the common name ‘stinkhorn fungus’.

Spore-containing slime-covered cap os Phallus indusiatus
Spore-containing slime-covered cap os Phallus indusiatus

The horrid smell attracts flies and other insects, which then aid in spore dispersal for the fungus.  The spores are ingested and some are able to pass intact through the digestive system and out to the ground alongside the insects faeces.

Flies are attracted to the Phallus indusiatus
Flies are attracted to the Phallus indusiatus

The dried form of the fungus is often sold in Asian markets for cooking.  The stinkhorns are simmered in water until tender and ready for consumption.  You are then able to cook them in a flavoured stock, or even stuff them before cooking.  They have been described as having ‘a crunchy texture and a unique musty, earthy flavour’.  Phallus indusiatus are used predominantly in vegetarian fine dining and are rich in protein, carbohydrates and fibre.    It also has antioxidant and antimicrobial properties, as well as other various bioactive compounds.

Bamboo pith from Phallus idusiatus - used for cooking
Bamboo pith from Phallus indusiatus – used for cooking

In Nigeria some traditionalists believe that this mushroom, when combined with several other ingredients, is able to cast a spell of death over someone.  Because of this belief, the people of Nigeria tend to avoid consuming this mushroom.

Phallus indusiatus
Phallus indusiatus

The Phallus Indusiatus is known to have been used in medicine as a treatment for diseases of a gastric, neural and inflammatory nature.  Specifically, its medicinal properties have been utilised in Chinese medicine since 618 AD.  It is thought to contain anti-cancer properties and is often prescribed in Chinese alternative medicine to treat laryngitis, leucorrhea, oligourea, diarrhea, hypertension, cough and hyperlipidemia.  Research has also shown that several components of this fungus could possess the ability to protect or even improve the central nervous system.

Phallus indusiatus
Phallus indusiatus

Does the smell of Phallus indusiatus induce female orgasms?

An article published in the International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms (http://www.dl.begellhouse.com/journals/708ae68d64b17c52,2e5fc0e3182d70db,6f3ed2921c9f3802.html) states that the smell of a fresh Phallus species induced spontaneous orgasms in 6 out of 16 female participants, whilst the other 10 participants experienced symptoms associated with sexual arousal, such as increased heart rate.  It is currently unknown whether this mushroom species is an entirely new species, or whether it is a variety of the Phallus indusiatus species of which this article is about.

It is thought that compounds in the volatile area of the gleba (spore-bearing inner mass) may have similarities to human neurotransmitters released in women during sexual arousal.

The location of this fungus is known only by very few Hawaiian locals, and it is unlikely that this mushroom, or at least its extracted and refined components, will become commercially available any time soon.

Bad luck everyone!  Looks like you’ll have to stick to old fashioned methods.

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