There's Something Strange in The Garden!
What is it...
an alien skull? Is it plastic netting? A 'net' ball?...yes, pun intended!
A few months ago I noticed a couple of these while walking the dog with my neighbor. At first we thought it was plastic and Mavis tried to pick it up. OOOH! Slimy! She couldn't wait to wash her hands. This was my first encounter with this oddity of nature. A fungus no less.
I'd never seen such a thing before but after a fresh crop sprung up just this week I had to find out about it.
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While walking Jamie (he's my mini Dachshund) the other morning I couldn't believe the crop of these odd looking fungi that had suddenly appeared in the walkway. I couldn't wait to rush back with my mobile which I use as my camera.
Unfortunately I had forgotten to charge up my phone so had to wait...
I was lucky they were still there later in the day as I believe they do not have a long life once they have fruited. I set about finding out what I could.
I learned that lleodictyon cibarium appear above ground as a small egg which then springs out as a basket....
A beautifully illustrated hard cover book that only covers a small sample of fungi from around the world! Six hundred sounds like a lot but with about 100,000 species it's only a drop in the ocean.
If you have a fascination for mushrooms this is for you. It is not a book to identify whether the mushroom is edible or not.
What does this fungus remind you of?
Making an Identification
I had already found a bit of information when I received a reply from my friend Peter, a Scientist at Landcare Research in Auckland. He had been away so the reply only came through late in the week. Peter's reply confirms much of what I had discovered:
'This is the native "Basket Fungus" (Ileodictyon cibarium) known to Maori as Kopurawhetu - it was eaten in the immature egg-like stage. Mostly we see this fungus growing in/on mulch in gardens and parks; it grows by decomposing dead plant material. It has adapted well to the (unnatural) structure of garden mulch and has thus become quite common, along with a number of introduced fungi. As a member of the Stinkhorn family, its foul smell is designed to attract flies that then feed on and spread the spores; the spores are present in the greenish brown slime evident in your photo.'
While Ileodictyon cibarium is native to New Zealand it has been found in Chile and apparently has been seen in Africa and England as an introduced species.
The Egg Cut in Half
I have not noticed the egg before it opens but this photo shows what it is like inside its casing. It is the cross section of the unopened fruiting body of the New Zealand basket fungus (Ileodictyon cibarium). To show its size it is shown next to a ballpoint pen. This fungus was dug up from a vegetable garden in Wellington in March 2012.
Called the 'droppings of ghosts' by Maori the baskets appear when the puff ball egg fruits. The egg has a two layered wall. The outer wall is lined with jelly while inside there is a mass of brown spores within the folded up basket.
Moisture is absorbed by the basket which then burst out of the egg. Sometimes they will roll around the ground while breaking free.
Although I didn't get too close I did get a bit of a whiff of the smell that is supposed to attract flies that then spread the spores.
Lattice Fungus Opening
Have you ever seen a mushroom like this before?
At Christmas I was given this fruit bowl. I love it!
At the time I'd never seen Kopurawhetu (ghost droppings) but I now think this was inspired by this very fungus.
Does my bowl remind you of this mushroom?
Not quite the same as my bowl...sorry I couldn't find one. You may even prefer this one.
I know that I have used a similar basket to give as a gift to clients in my financial business - 'not putting all your eggs in one basket!' Filled with goodies naturally.