Phallus impudicus is a fungus commonly known as stinkhorn. It was first described in 1597, by botanist John Gerard, in his book General History of Plants. Later, in 1753, Carl Linneus formally described this fungus, and named it exactly how it is named now. This binomial name derives from Latin and means “immodest penis”. It received this name because of its phallic appearance when mature. Another characteristic of this fungus is its foul odor, which attracts insects and makes them the most important way of spores dispersal. They can be smelled from long distances, even when they are only emerging.
It looks like these mushrooms have been around for a long time. It is found in some articles how Etty Darwin, Charles Darwin’s granddaughter, describes her effort to kill stinkhorn mushrooms, and describe how she needs to kill them to protect the morals of the female maids: “Armed with a basket and a pointed stick, and wearing special hunting cloak and gloves, she would sniff her way round the wood, pausing here and there, her nostrils twitching, when she caught a whiff of her prey; then at last, with a deadly pounce, she would fall upon her victim, and poke his putrid carcass into her basket. At the end of the day’s sport, the catch was brought back and burnt in the deepest secrecy on the drawing-room fire, with the door locked; because of the morals of the maids”.
Stinkhorns emerge from a 4-8cm in diameter underground egg, have white stipe that persists for several days after insects have eaten the gleba, and its cap is covered with a smelly olive green fleshy spore bearing inner mass.
Phallus impudicus is commonly throughout Europe and in North America. They are edible mushrooms, but only regularly consumed in a few countries. They are eaten in France, and in parts of Germany it is treated as a delicacy.