Now that October is here, it is time for my second annual series of Halloween-themed posts. This week’s post features some of the dark weirdness of the natural world. Together with beautiful summer wildflowers and autumn leaves, nature creates creepy looking fungi and plants that look like they belong in horror or science fiction movies.
According to Wikipedia, this weird fungus is found in North America and Europe, and it “was recently discovered in Iran (2008) and Korea (2010).” It “forms mutually beneficial relationships with a variety of coniferous trees, growing on the ground singly, scattered, or in fused masses.” The “blood” of this fungus has inspired several colorful common names, including strawberries and cream, bleeding Hydnellum, bleeding tooth fungus, and red-juice tooth. The blood appears only while it is young. When it gets old, it becomes “brown and nondescript.”
Source: “Hydnellum peckii” – Wikipedia
Scharfer Korkstacheling Hydnellum peckii.jpg
Wikipedia describes this fungus as “indigenous to Australia and Tasmania and an introduced species in Europe, North America and Asia.” Its tentacle-like arms have earned it the common name of “Octopus Stinkhorn.” As its common name implies, this fungus literally stinks. In fact, it “smells of putrid flesh” when it reaches maturity.
Source: “Clathrus archeri” – Wikipedia
According to Wikipedia, the common names for this shaggy mushroom include Lion’s Mane Mushroom, Bearded Tooth Mushroom, Hedgehog Mushroom, Satyr’s Beard, Bearded Hedgehog Mushroom, pom pom mushroom, and Bearded Tooth Fungus. It is actually edible, and it is also used for medicinal purposes. It is “native to North America, Europe, and Asia.” Wikipedia further notes that “in the wild, these mushrooms are common during late summer and fall on hardwoods, particularly American Beech.”
Source: “Hericium erinaceus” – Wikipedia
Hericium erinaceum on an old tree in Shave Wood, New Forest – geograph.org.uk – 254892.jpg
Lions Mane (4501233135).jpg
According to Wikipedia, this fungus is “commonly called bamboo fungus, bamboo pith, long net stinkhorn, crinoline stinkhorn or veiled lady.” It is found “in southern Asia, Africa, the Americas, and Australia, where it grows in woodlands and gardens in rich soil and well-rotted woody material.”
Wikipedia further notes that “the cap is covered with a greenish-brown spore-containing slime, which attracts flies and other insects that eat the spores and disperse them.” Despite the slime, this fungus is actually edible and widely used in Chinese haute cuisine. Because it “also contains various bioactive compounds, and has antioxidant and antimicrobial properties,” it has also been used in Chinese medicine.
Phallus indusiatus from Kerala, India – 20090824.jpg
According to Wikipedia, this fungus is “found in Australia, Guam, Sumatra, Java, Borneo, Papua New Guinea, Zaire, and Tobago as well as Hawaii.” It is in the same family as Phallus indusiastus and looks similar to it. However, it is smaller than Phallus indusiastus, and it is more brightly colored. I am not sure if it is edible or used for medicinal purposes.
Source: “Phallus multicolor” – Wikipedia
Also called Devil’s hand-flower, monkey hand-flower, and Mexican hand-flower, this tree is native to Guatemala and southern Mexico. According to Wikipedia, the “Aztecs and others have used solutions containing the tree’s flowers as a remedy for lower abdominal pain and for heart problems.”
Source: “Chiranthodendron” – Wikipedia
Chiranthodendron pentadactylon 4.jpg
Closer look at the “Devil’s hand”.jpg
According to Wikipedia, this cactus is “endemic to the central Pacific coast of Baja California Sur, and is found only on sandy soils, where it forms massive colonies.”
It is commonly called “Creeping Devil” because of its strange growth pattern:
Creeping Devil lies on the ground and grows at one end while the other end slowly dies, with a succession of new roots developing on the underside of the stem. The growth rate is adapted to the moderate, moist marine environment of the Baja peninsula, and can achieve in excess of 60 cm per year, but when transplanted to a hot, arid environment the cacti can grow as little as 60 cm per decade. Over the course of many years, the entire cactus will slowly travel, with stems branching and taking root toward the growing tips, while older stem portions die and disintegrate. This traveling chain of growth gives rise to the name eruca, which means “caterpillar” as well as the common name Creeping Devil.
Stenocereus eruca is considered the “most extreme case of clonal propagation in the cactus family” (Gibson and Nobel, 1986). This means that due to isolation and scarcity of pollinating creatures, the plant is able to clone itself. This is done by pieces detaching from the major shoot as their bases die and rot.
Source: “Stenocereus eruca” – Wikipedia
Stenocereus eruca 1.jpg
Stenocereus eruca, Creeping Devils at Huntington.jpg
Wikipedia describes Corymbia calophylla as “a bloodwood native to Western Australia.” It is commonly known as Marri and Port Gregory Gum. The “blood” of the tree is actually red kino or plant gum that comes out of the tree when incisions are made in its trunk.
Corymbia calophylla kino.jpg
Corymbia terminalis, also known as the Desert Bloodwood, is a tree native to Australia.
According to Encyclopaedia Britannica, strangler figs include “many species of tropical figs (genus Ficus) named for their pattern of growth upon host trees, which often results in the host’s death.” A strangler fig begins life as an epiphyte that harmlessly grows upon another tree. However, it eventually develops long roots that create a “strangling latticework” that usually kills its host tree. These bizarre lethal trees are found “in tropical forests throughout the world.”
Strangler Fig Ta Prohm Angkor1315.jpg