Plant Clinic

Strange fungi stink, but do no harm

Q. I have these very strange things growing up in my lawn. They are very mushy and bright red in color. The worst part is the smell is like rotting meat.

D.C., North Miami

These are mushrooms called stinkhorns. They are not considered poisonous and don't harm plants or the lawn. However, it would be better not to allow children and pets to eat these mushrooms just to be on the safe side.

Stinkhorn fungi start out as white, egg-like structures in mulch or damp soil. When enough water is available, this egg-sac structure will rupture and the mature mushroom (the “stinkhorn”) will emerge.

Although their strong rotting smell is unappealing, these fungi are not bad for your landscape and can be beneficial. As a fungus, stinkhorns break down organic matter and make those nutrients available for plants. This is especially helpful for landscapes and gardens in Florida’s soils.

You can remove them when they are still egg-like by pulling them up and throwing away in the trash. Once they are fully developed, spores are being released into the environment. The smell attracts ants and flies that then pick up and carry the mushroom spores to other places.

Adrian Hunsberger is an entomologist/horticulturist with the UF/IFAS Miami-Dade Extension office. Write to Plant Clinic, 18710 SW 288th St., Homestead, FL 33030; e-mail

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