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Clathrus archeri (devil's fingers)

Clathrus archeri, also known as devil's fingers, has a gelatinous egg stage from which the fruitbody arises, its four to eight reddish arms each coated with dark, foul-smelling tissue.
Clathrus archeri in soil

Clathrus archeri (Photo: Geoffrey Kibby)

Species information

Common name: 

devil's fingers; octopus stinkhorn

Conservation status: 

An introduced species to Britain, apparently still spreading, and not of conservation concern here. Also alien to Europe, but red-listed in the Netherlands. Fairly frequent where native in Australia and New Zealand.

Habitat: 

On soil, often amongst decaying wood chips, around old stumps, or in leaf litter, growing in clusters.

Known hazards: 

None. Like other phalloids, the species has a sticky, foul-smelling gleba (fertile tissue) when mature. The unpleasant odour attracts flies which disperse the spores. Although quite inedible at this stage it is not toxic and is quite harmless.

Taxonomy

Kingdom: 
Fungi
Phylum: 
Basidiomycota
Subphylum: 
Agaricomycotina
Order: 
Phallales
Family: 
Phallaceae
Genus: Clathrus

About this species

Clathrus archeri is one of the phalloid fungi (Phallales) and is related to the common stinkhorn (Phallus impudicus), a well-known woodland fungus in Britain. It similarly produces a sticky spore-bearing tissue designed to attract flies which are the agents of spore dispersal. Like other phalloids, C. archeri accumulates manganese in the egg-stage, apparently important chemically in producing the sugars and odorous substances found in the fertile tissue.

The devil's fingers fungi was first described as Lysurus archeri by the Rev. M.J. Berkeley in 1860, and later referred to the genus Anthurus due to its free arms rather than cage-like form. It was then placed in the genus Clathrus by Dring (1980), a genus which includes the so-called cage fungi, many of them tropical in distribution or native to the southern hemisphere.

Clathrus archeri is one of several phalloids which have been introduced to Britain, and it was first recorded in Britain from Cornwall in 1946. It has since spread in southern England, and is now locally frequent, especially favouring wood-chip mulch.

Genus: 
Clathrus

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