'Unbearably' stinky find in Aussie backyard explained: 'Smells like roadkill'

Who knew something growing in your garden could smell this bad?

A mother is at her wits' end and sick of having to explain to visitors what that stinky smell in her garden is.

Skye McIver from t Sydney's Northern Beaches has been living in Davidson for the past five years. But it wasn’t until six months ago that she first noticed the “terrible smell” on her property and then the “stinky phallic mushrooms” growing among her plants.

“We’ve had numerous mushrooms shoot up since then and it’s always the smell that we noticed first before the mushroom actually grows above ground level,” the mum-of-two told Yahoo News Australia.

The mushroom from far away (left) and close up (right).
Skye McIver says her family can smell the mushrooms before they see them growing. Source: Facebook

“It really does smell like roadkill or something rotting, so much so that at first we thought there must have been a dead animal in our yard or a trapped mouse in the wall cavity. It’s absolutely unbearable. I feel terrible for the postie and I have to explain when visitors drop by.”

In a series of photos, the mushroom in question appears as a thick white object, growing upwards. While sometimes just one mushroom will grow at time, Skye explained that often they’ll “get a whole group of them growing at once. “They are shooting up all over our front garden,” the mother said, concerned for what the future will hold.

“I’ve been explaining to our children how mushrooms grow from a web-like structure, spreading under the ground, so we really have no idea how many will keep shooting up or how to remove them entirely.”

'They're fabulous'

People responding to her photos on Facebook had a range of reactions to the photos, with one commenter saying they were like "fairy castles". "Oh they are fabulous," the person wrote, "they don't smell for long. I spend ages trying to find them in the bush when I get a waft."

McIver pointed out that individual fungi may not smell but when there is "an infestation it's absolutely horrible".

"They're an important part of the ecosystem. Leave them," another person wrote, adding that they break down compost and feed pollinators.

"I know how they smell, but I would be stoked to have them in my garden," said a third.

So, what is it?

According to Dr David Orlovich, head of the botany department at the University of Otago and postdoctoral fellow at UNSW, said the mushroom is a Phallus indusiatus. He said they are also known as: bamboo mushrooms, long net stinkhorns, bridal veil or veiled ladies, with this name coming from the lacy skirt that hangs from beneath the cap.

The Phallus indusiatus.
Phallus indusiatus is also commonly called the bamboo mushrooms, bamboo pith, long net stinkhorn, crinoline stinkhorn, bridal veil, or veiled lady. Source: iNaturalist

“The specimen in the photo is a bit old,” he told Yahoo News Australia. “The dark ‘cap’ has collapsed a little and has partly been removed, probably by flies, but the texture of the cap does indicate it is Phallus indusiatus.”

Orlovich went on to explain that the smell comes from the dark green and black spore mass. “They are called stinkhorns for this very reason. The smell is like faeces and it attracts flies, which then disperse the spores. I’ve seen flies literally clean the whole smelly spore mass off in a few hours and leave the white fungus behind, so the smell is very effective!”

While admittedly it might not be the nicest stench to have around, Orlovich urged McIver to let it keep growing.

“It is a wood-decay fungus and while it does smell bad it isn’t likely to do any harm to anything so I would just enjoy it rather than try to get rid of it!” he said, adding that while it is commonly observed in north Sydney — more so than the rest of Sydney — it has been found from Kiama in the south and as far up as Cooktown in Far North Queensland.

Do you have a story tip? Email: newsroomau@yahoonews.com.

You can also follow us on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter and YouTube.