Synops. Meth. Fung.: 246. 1801.
Common Name: stinkhorn
Fruiting body arising from a buried, egg-like body, up to 5.0 cm long and 4.0 cm broad, white, soon pinkish to lilac-colored, attached to the substrate by a mycelial cord; with maturity, fruiting body rupturing, elongating to form a characteristic phallus shape, the fertile head up to 4.0 cm tall, 3.0 cm broad, sometimes calyptrate from veil fragments, attached at the stipe apex, occasionally flared at the margin; surface olive-grey, slimy when moist, coarsely reticulate; odor in age, strong, penetrating, disagreeable.
Stipe up to 10 cm long, 3.0 cm broad, round, hollow, fragile; surface spongy-white, the apex tipped by a round to oval opening, 5-10 mm broad; base often pinkish in age, surrounded by a thin, membranous, saccate type volva, at first whitish, then pinkish to purple; at maturity the stipe collapsing.
Spores 3.0-4.5 x 1.5-2 µm, ellipsoid-oblong, smooth; olive-grey in mass.
Solitary, gregarious, to clustered in sandy soils, sand dunes, lawns, gardens and parks, occasionally in wood chips; uncommon in natural habitats; fruiting from summer to late fall in watered areas.
Edible in the egg stage; untried locally.
As one would expect with a Latin name of Phallus, this stinkhorn is recognized by a phallic-shaped fruiting body, a slimy olive-grey head seated on a pallid, spongy-textured stipe. The remarkable transformation from a purple-tinged "egg" to a mature, malodorous stinkhorn takes only a few days, but more than enough time for flies attracted by the odor to carry away the spore-embedded slime. Novice collectors sometimes confuse this stinkhorn for a morel, a mistake they're unlikely to repeat, once they examine it closely. In California, Phallus hadriani is most commonly found in parks and sandy areas where its lilac-colored egg stage could conjure up thoughts of misplaced Easter eggs. For homeowners, however, who unexpectedly find it in their garden, the beauty of the egg stage is outweighed by its foetid odor making it an unwelcome guest.
Phallus impudicus is similar with a whitish volva, but may not occur in California.
Calonge, Francisco D. (1998). Flora Mycologica Iberica. Vol. 3. Gasteromycetes, I. Lycoperdales, Nidulariales, Phallales, Sclerodermatales, Tulostomatales. J. Cramer: Berlin, Germany. 271 p.
Pegler, D. N., Læssøe, T. & Spooner, B. M. (1995). British Puffballs, Earthstars, and Stinkhorns. Royal Botanic Gardens: Kew, England. 255 p.