The Strange, Alien Fungus, Clathrus Archeri



Nature in all its glorious forms of animal, marine and plant life never ceases to amaze, with varying colours, shapes, sizes, growth and beauty. Sometimes though, you see something that’s a little different and almost shocking to behold. A good example of this is the Clathrus archeri, which is also known by its common name of 'Devil’s Fingers or Claw' and the 'Octopus Stinkhorn'.


Clathrus archeri belongs to the phalloid fungi group (Phallales) and is a close relative of the Phallus impudicus, or common stinkhorn, which is a woodland fungus found in Great Britain. Clathrus archeri starts out life out looking frighteningly odd, so much so that you’d be excused for thinking an alien had landed and laid some strange kind of egg!


The fungus bursts forth from an egg-like embryo that looks a little like a squid and forms up to 8 long, pinkish arms that could be likened to tentacles. The embryo stage produces an egg-shaped growth 4-6cm in height and 2-4cm in width. Initially, the surface appears whitish like an egg but, fairly quickly, the outline of the reddish arms growing inside can be seen and this is what gives the fungus its spooky alien appearance.Growth Its inner layer is a soft, mushy greenish-brown and contains the spore-bearing tissue which is sticky and lines the arms/tentacles. This fungus sits on a hollow stem, which is short and stumpy at 3-6cm in height and 1-3cm in width. The arms/tentacles measure about 5-10cm in length and are mutually attached to each other by their tips at the start of life but then start to grow independently.

Spreading the seed

Once the arms/tentacles have fully unfolded and developed they reveal a pinkish interior laced with the fleshy, spore-covered internal mass. The smell is really quite atrocious, likened to rotting flesh that attracts flies in copious numbers and the sticky residue becomes either their death trap or a means of the fungus spreading its spores and growing again in the flies that don’t get trapped.
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