An embarrassing-looking mushroom
We know that in nature there are many different varieties of mushrooms, which belong to many different families and genera, and which are divided into species. Each of them has unique characteristics, which are useful for mushroom hunters to distinguish those that are edible from those that are toxic or poisonous, or simply not good to eat. Sometimes, there are mushrooms that have similar aspects, so that they can easily be confused with each other; in other cases, on the other hand, the fungus has a morphology that can be identified at first glance. This is for example the case of Phallus impudicus, which looks awkwardly like the male genital member, and which above all emits such an odor that if you come across one of its specimens, it is practically impossible not to recognize it.
The characteristics of Phallus impudicus
Phallus impudicus belongs to the Phallaceae family, and has an almost unique appearance, which can only be confused with another species of the same genus, Phallus hadriani, at least once it has reached full maturity. In fact, when it is born from the ground, the Phallus Impudicus has the appearance of an ovum, since it is enclosed within a white volva. This egg has a rubbery and gelatinous interior: therefore, even if it may look like an edible mushroom to the appearance, if it is opened it immediately shows its different nature. Later, from this ovule comes the stem, which in turn has a white color, and whose flesh has a spongy consistency. In general, the stem is hollow, and has an opening on the top, around which the pseudo hat develops. This initially has a yellow-green color, then turns into olive green and discards in old age.
How to recognize Phallus impudicus
In addition to the characteristics listed above, one aspect that makes Phallus impudicus an immediately identifiable fungus is its smell. At the beginning it is slightly vanilla and may even look pleasant, but later it becomes more sweet and nauseating, like that of a rotting corpse. This serves the fungus for the propagation of spores: in fact the insects are attracted, they rest on the top of the stem, and then convey the spores around the wood. This is the reason why the pseudo hat flakes slowly, taking on the appearance of a morel in time. Phallus impudicus grows from spring to the end of autumn, in broad-leaved or coniferous forests, and often also in gardens. It is a saprophytic fungus, which is born in places where dead decaying organisms are found.
The edibility of Phallus impudicus
Phallus impudicus is not an edible, but not toxic or poisonous fungus. Simply, their meat is not consumed because of their foul smell and their lack of attractiveness. Some, however, eat this fungus when it is still only an egg; at this stage it is quite edible, but it is still a fungus that has little appeal to seekers. The latter make it especially the object of their dirty jokes, for obvious reasons. Also because of its shape, the Phallus impudicus is called in a vulgar manner Satirione, or even Uovo del Diavolo. In English instead it is called Stinkhorn, or smelly horn, because of its unpleasant smell. As was said, it could be confused with the Phallus hadriani, with respect to which, however, the substantial difference lies in the color of the base of the stem, which is white in the Phallus impudicus, and rosy in the hadrian one.