Taking the trash out to the alley this wet Saturday afternoon, I noticed some unusual fungi growing in the mulch along our garage.
I remember seeing some fungi like this in my neighbors' yard when I was a kid. I was fascinated and repulsed by them at the time, but I had not seen them since then.
I searched around on the internet and learned that these are members of the stinkhorn family of fungi. They go by the amusing but apt Latin name Phallus rubicundus.
This blog post at Hunter Valley Backyard Nature gives some more detail:
Phallic-looking fruiting bodies emerge from egg-like sacs and can elongate several inches within a period of a few hours, making these striking and almost obscene growths a novelty in suburban gardens and lawns.
But as odd and repugnant as they might appear, they will do no harm to your garden and will wilt and decay within a very short period of time.
The post also explains the rather alarming brown stuff at the tip of the stalk:
Stinkhorn fungi stink for a reason. Flies and other insects that are attracted to the smell of rotting flesh or feces are drawn to the foul odor of the fungi. The odor emanates from a greenish-brown gooey substance (gleba) that contains spores.
Our world is a strange and wondrous place, no? Not only the bizarre forms that life can take, but also the brain that has stored my memory of these, and the technology that allows me to finally learn something about them and post my findings for anyone to see.