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April 19, 2012

The Corona of Canopus


It's a long time since I have seen this fungus here in Ashley - maybe 30 years.  I identified the specimens that I found then - growing under pine trees - as stinkhorns, and stink they did.
This season's prolific 'flowering' has appeared on decaying pine roots at the edge of a heap of old trimmings. But I have a cold and I have barely noticed the smell as I close in for daily progress shots with my camera. Individual specimens unfurl over a day and wilt by the end of their second day. I haven't noticed a lot of fly activity and wonder if these are not particularly potent.  Maybe that explains their thirty year absence.


But I want to know more. Surely with the wonders of Google it will be a simple matter to identify this species; find its Maori name; determine whether it is edible or not? But knowing what questions to ask is crucial and finding the right questions means out-thinking the search engines!  No one specialist site addresses all my wonderings.  A complicating factor is that the term stinkhorn in New Zealand has broadened to include fungus baskets, which are a related species but are certainly not horn-shaped. They appear readily in the winter here and made an appearance in Lady Mondegreen's Secret Garden last year. Initially every search I made took me to Ileodictyon cibarium. However, the form which I have identified as Aseroe rubra, does have a distinct tube rising from the basal 'egg' and flaring out into six arms.




But with all the images available on the internet, very few of them are identical to these.  Mine don't have the spore mass in a ring around the central tube. The smelly spore-laden mucus is spread only lightly along the arms, which have diabolically forked ends. Judging by other photos and also the joined state of the hatchling in my second photo, the forks may occur when the arms separate. To a novice like me, this certainly seems to be a highly variable species.


Once I had established the Maori name for this fungus, it was easier to find out whether it was used for food.  Apparently the unopened 'eggs' of both Ileodictyon cibarium and Aseroe rubra were wrapped in many layers of rangiora leaves and roasted in embers. Later, with the advent of cooking pots, they were boiled. Eating them uncooked caused staggering and loss of control but not as far as accounts show, death.
Although I would love to try this delicacy, I would need to first see it prepared by someone who is familiar with the method of safe preparation. But using rangiora leaves to make dolmada is something I might try sometime.


In 2002 New Zealand Post issued a set of stamps depicting Native Fungi: Aseroe rubra graced the 90 cent denomination.

And the Maori name?  Before I even began looking for it I knew it would be something special. Traditional Maori often used metaphor to describe the natural world as well as social structure and human qualities. I find the language has a beguiling poetry to it. One form of the name Puapua Tai, probably compares it to the sea anemone, which is also one of its English-language names along with red flower fungus and star fungus. Star fungus ... that brings me back to its distincitive Maori name Puapua a Autahi.  The elements of this name break down into garland and Autahi, which is the Maori name for the bright star Canopus. This precise reference is a reminder of the importance of the stars to the early navigators who crossed the Pacific Ocean. From my limited knowledge of Te Reo Maori, I recall that the preposition a instead of o to show pocession, indicates sacredness or reverence  So many references to this fungus - inluding its genus - express revulsion, but the Maori name accords it due wonder, which matches my own feelings at finding it at the bottom of my garden. So, because my Secret Garden stinkhorns seem to have their own distinct identity, I shall call them the Rays of Autahi.



The Organisations whose websites I found particularly useful when researching this post are listed below:


And for irreverence, indecency and sheer gee whiz factor check out The Stinkhorn Hall of Fame on the Mushroom Expert.Com

Pine, Radiata pine  Pinus radiata
Rangiora, Bushman's toilet paper, Bushman's friend  Brachyglottis repanda

16 comments:

Cro Magnon said...

It's a beauty. I'm sure I've not seen it here, although Stinkhorns are plentiful (Phwaaar).

John Gray said...

it looks like a triffid!

Jeneane said...

Cro: this type is apparently a NZ and Australian species though it has spread internationally in potting mix. Glad you appreciate its beauty and the blogosphere is stink-free :-)

John: Disaster film obsessive you. My new lovespoon would scoop into the centre quite nicely!

megan blogs said...

Beautiful! When i looked at the photo before i started reading your blog post, i wondered what this anemone or some relation of an octopus (hexapus?) was doing on your lawn.

megan

Jeneane said...

Hexapus. I like that. Thanks for visiting Megan. It really is an other-worldly looking creature isn't it.
The funny thing is that although they are growing close to the road, I don't think any passerbys have noticed them yet.

Owen said...

These are FABULOUS !

Never saw anything like it. They seem to be the mad red joker of the fungus world. Help us, help us, there's fungus among us !

Thanks also for the enlightenment about the Maori take on these also. Like Native Americans, they had a healthier approach to many things I suspect... imho of course...

Jeneane said...

Fabulous indeed - I like your mad red joker perception. As they have wilted - and eventually attracted the flies - quite nearby, the first of the fungus baskets have appeared.
I have to say that the pre-European Moa hunters, with complete lack of good husbandry, extinguished NZ's largest land creatures and Banks Peninsula was de-forested by burning before European settlement too.

the cuby poet said...

I have never seen anything like this angry (because it is red) inverted octopus like growth. On first sight I am repelled, then when I discover it stinks, repelled some more and when you say you would like to try it I worry for you! OK it is a spectacular sight but as far as I am concerned that is its sole redeeming factor! Interesting nonetheless. :)

Jeneane said...

Yes, the idea of eating it does seem repulsive, but from what I have read it was only eaten in the unopened egg stage, before it developed its stink. I'd love to find out more... whether it was considered a delicacy or eaten out of sheer hunger!

Chris Davies said...

Have these growing in abundance under Eucalypts in the Western Cape, South Africa....often wondered if I could make little bells to adorn the bifurcated tips of the little jokers hats....

Lady Mondegreen's Secret Garden said...

Chris Davies: Glad to have you visit. They certainly look like they would translate into costume pieces don't they. Interesting to hear that you have them in South Africa too.

MSc Juraj Maslik said...

Hi Guys, I've just found a similar one in Slovakia :). Here is the link:

http://www.maslik.com/Red-Octopus-Stinkhorn-Mushroom-in-Dunajov-Slovakia

Lady Mondegreen's Secret Garden said...

Thanks for that; they are fascinating aren't they.

Clive said...

Not wishing to spoil your fun at ID'ing these but you have them named wrong! These are Clathrus archeri.

VICENTE ORTIZ said...

Search in the internet for Ipiales, a little town in the south of Colombia in south america... and guess what... with my wife we found four of that beatiful species when we were out with our dogs... it´s something amazin we spend two week with a friend of ours searching information about it... THANKS A LOT...

Lady Mondegreen's Secret Garden said...

Clive: Very pleased to have clarification and better ID than I was capable of. Thank you. It seems that Clathrus has the spore masses on the arms while Aseroe has them around the throat.

VINCENTE ORTIZ: Glad that this post was helpful so far away from your fungus. But do note Clive's identification above.