Aussie woman makes 'creepy' garden discovery: 'Smells like rotten meat'

A Sydney resident was left stumped when they came across this phallus-shaped growth in their garden. Here's what it is.

A mystery find in a woman's garden has left the resident holding her breath over the pungent smell that an expert has likened to “rotten meat”.

“Does anyone know what these creepy stinky things are?” the NSW woman asked online, saying they’d popped up on her lawn over the last couple of days. “They stink so bad,” she added.

Professor of plant pathology at the University of Sydney, David Guest, says while the plants have an off-putting smell, they are perfectly harmless. Speaking to Yahoo News, he explained the bizarre-looking growths closely relate to mushrooms and would not hurt other plants in the garden.

The photos of the stinkhorns jutting out from grass on a suburban lawn.
The NSW woman said these "creepy stinky things" popped up in her lawn. Source: Facebook

In a series of photos posted to Facebook, a red-brown plant with a pointy head can be seen growing out of the grass at the property in the Sutherland area in Sydney's south.

Many commenters responding to the post online said the plant was a stinkhorn and shared that they had also seen similar growths in their gardens. "The flies love them," commented one woman.

Prof Guest confirmed that the plant was a stinkhorn. “It’s a fungus and related to morels [a type of mushroom that you can eat] so they’re sort of like truffles,” he explained. And while some people do eat them, the scent alone might put you off.

Prof Guest explained why the plants emit such an unpleasant odour. “It’s like rotten meat and that attracts flies and so the flies come and land on it and they pick up the spores and so they distribute the spores.”

How to get rid of them

While the Sydneysider pleaded for advice to help remove her unwanted vegetation, Professor Guest seemed unfazed.

“I wouldn’t worry about it,” he said. “It's just a fungus that grows in the soil, it doesn't kill plants or animals, and it decomposes organic matter. So if it's decomposing something that's rotting, it probably already smells and flies and things like that are a really important way of spreading it.”

But if the resident was keen to remove the plant, he said it was simple.

“Just put on a pair of gloves and pick it up and throw it in the bin,” he said, but warned “it’s always in the soil”.

A single stinkhorn (left) and a larger plant (right).
Guest said the purpose of the stench is to draw flies to the plant to help spread its spores. Source: Australian Geographic

One commenter on the online post said: "You need to dig them out, trying to get the bulbous base out without breaking it, or else many more will come up."

Another wrote: "Where one pops up you will usually find several more of the egg like things buried in the soil nearby. I used to just dig them up and put them in the green waste."

Prof Guest explained that mushrooms usually start appearing once the nights turn colder. “So it's an autumn thing. And I’d say in autumn you get lots of mushrooms coming up and this is just one of those ones that appears in autumn but it’s always there in the soil and it's harmless.”

Plants grow in a 'bizarre' way

While Professor Guest closed the mystery of what was found in the garden, he added that there was another interesting point to make.

“There's one other detail,” he said. “The botanical name of these mushrooms is phallus, like a penis, and that's because of the shape and the way it develops.

“Like this is a bizarre fact but when they come out of the soil, they look like an erect penis. But once they attract the flies with their terrible smell, they disappear within a couple of days anyway.”

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