Phallus rubicundus

Scientific name:  Phallus rubicundus (Bosc) Fr.
Derivation of nameRubicund means "very red."  
Synonyms:  Satyrus rubicundus Bosc
Common name(s): Devil's stinkhorn.  
Phylum:   Basidiomycota
Order:   Phallales
Family:   Phallaceae
Occurrence on wood substrate:  Saprobic; solitary or
grouped on wood chip mulch, lawns, garden beds;
spring through summer.  
Dimensions: Fruitbody up to about 20 cm tall and up
to 1.5 cm thick.    
Description:   Fruitbody at first a whitish egg-like
stage, resembling a puffball. The egg is attached to the
substrate by white mycelial strands (rhizomorphs). The
outer wall (peridium) of the egg splits and a hollow,
spongy, stalk expands which is red to scarlet (at least
above) but may be orangish to yellowish or paler toward
the base. The slender, hollow stalk appears spongelike.
Michael Kuo (at the MushroomExpert site below)
decribes the stalk as "coarsely pocked with elongated
potholes." A slimy, olive-brown, fetid spore mass covers
a detachable conical or bell-shaped head or cap. A
membranous veil may or may not be associated with the
Edibility: Unknown.  
Comments: This southern species is becoming more
commonly reported in the Northeast, perhaps introduced
by the commercial spread of wood mulch. It is quite easy
to confuse it with Mutinus elegans but Mutinus species
bear their slime directly on the upper part of the stalk;
they have no clearly differentiated head. The skirt-like,
detachable slime-bearing head of this Phallus species
clearly differentiates it from species of Mutinus. The
variable presence of the veil was noted by W. H. Long
in 1907 in his paper, The Phalloideae of Texas.  

More information at

Figure 1. Phallus rubicundus growing at the edge of a
wood-mulched landscape bed. This was my first sighting
of this species in Pennsylvania. Photo © Gary Emberger.

Figure 2. A close-up view of the specimen in Figure 1.
Photo © Gary Emberger.

Figure 3. The bottom edge of the slime-covered cap
is not attached to the stalk. Photo © Gary Emberger.

Figure 4. The head (or cap) was cut longitudinally to show
its point of attachment at the tip of the stalk. The presence
of this separable, differentiated head clearly distinguishes
this species from its look-alike, Mutinus elegans.
Photo © Gary Emberger.

Figure 5. A different specimen showing the bottom edge
of the slime-covered head free from the stalk.
Photo © Gary Emberger.

Figure 6. Phallus rubicundus growing in wood mulch
under an oak tree in Central Park, New York City, NY.
Photo © Gary Lincoff.

Figure 7. According to Gary Lincoff, some of the Central
Park specimens had veils while others didn't. Specimens
with conspicuous veils are pictured in Figures 8-10.
Photo © Gary Lincoff.

Figure 8. The veils first appear at the top of the stalks.
Photo © Gary Lincoff.

Figure 9. The veils detach and slip down the stalk, ultimately
falling away and disappearing. Photo © Gary Lincoff.

Figure 10. A particularly well-developed veil that
has detached from the head and is falling down the
stalk. Photo © Gary Lincoff.

Figure 11. An unusual feature of Phallus rubicundus is the
presence of elongated, pit-like depressions covering the
stem surface. Photo © Gary Emberger. 

Figure 12. A dissected stalk of Phallus rubicundus
revealing its hollow nature and the spongy wall bearing
the pit-like depressions. Photo © Gary Emberger.

Figure 13. The entire fruitbody of Phallus rubicundus
showing the volva-like remains of the egg, the pitted
stalk, and slime-bearing head. Photo © Gary Emberger.

Figure 14. A dissected young "egg" of Phallus
. The color gradient from top to bottom was
also evident in the stalk of the mature specmen. Note
the rhizomorphs at the base of the egg.
Photo © Gary Emberger.


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This page © 2008 by Gary Emberger, Messiah College