Plant Guide > Mushrooms > Genus Phallus

Genus Phallus



The genus Phallus may be readily distinguished by the cylindrical shape of the spore receptacles and the intolerable odour. No one with his sense of smell developed would think of eating the members of this group. The botanist and the artist, however, have braved this lion on his own territory, and have found much that is beautiful and interesting; the artist having the advantage in his task of portraying the handsome specimen, in that he can inclose it in a sealed ;lass case and work in comfort. The experience of the botanist must be realised to be appreciated.

An overpowering fetid odour suddenly evident upon the premises has many times filled with consternation the guests at summer resorts, causing among them much speculation, with suggestions of bad sewerage, and carelessness on the part of their host, together with other comments equally disastrous to the reputation of the place.

The distracted householder searches in vain for a solution of the difficulty, and the odour disappears as mysteriously as it carne. If he is one of the initiated, however, he will search until he finds the haunt of the offender, and will destroy all chance of a repetition of the nuisance - for one summer, at least.

The mischief-maker is a handsome specimen, as its plate shows. The white stem, bearing at its summit a mass of gelatinous green substance capped with a yellow-white ring and emitting its intolerable odour, has surely come into existence for a purpose-a purpose soon suggested-as hundreds of flies wing their way hither to sip the semi-fluid mass.

The botanist tells us that the spores of this plant are mixed in the green fluid, and that they are carried away on the feet and in the bodies of the flies to other places, where new colonies may be started.

The plant has undoubtedly emerged from the ground for the sole purpose of disseminating its spores, and all its parts have been developed to accomplish this function in the most effectual manner.

The banquet for the flies is prepared underground, and the table, with its viands all ready, is pushed into the light, while the invitation to the guests is wafted swiftly on the breeze.

One is curious to learn the mechanism by which so much is accomplished in apparently so short a time, and finds in this instance, as in all others where great things are accomplished with ease, that many forces have been slowly at work to insure everything being in readiness for the success of a final flourish. A search underground shows the mycelial threads to have permeated the soil for many feet in every direction in search of building material, and a glance at a vertical section of one of the pink eggs which has pushed its way out of the soil will show in outline the plan of what is to be.

The pink "eggshell," or peridium, is lined with a jelly-like substance, which has undoubtedly served as a safe packing to what is
within, a protection against bloswand insect ravages. Within this coat, in section, appears as two dark-coloured saddle-bags that which later is to form the green mass on the cap of the fully developed spore table. Between these dark masses lies in section the future stem; it is hollow, and bears on its rim the spore-bearing cap. The walls of this cap consist of flattened cells, which by extraordinary growth and expansion are to force the stem through the eggshell and carry the banquet of spores several inches into the light, leaving the torn wrapper as a volva at its base, a natural "Jack-in-the-box."

Phallus Impudicus