Sunday, August 8, 2021

Stinkhorns in the garden

Virus cases are rising and I have a weird smelly orange fungus growing in my backyard. First thing in the morning I head out into my herb garden how I always do and there it is, poking up between the oregano and the marigolds. It wasn't there yesterday. And now suddenly, boom! the size and shape of a carrot. But if the carrot was playing a part in a horror movie. 

We're back to wearing masks at work. Required for the employees, "recommended" for patrons. We used to say "Masks Appreciated." Do our patrons notice the change of wording? Someone has a fit at the desk, not about masks, but over our refusal to allow her to check out items on another person's library card. She raises her voice and calls someone on her phone and yells about how stupid the library is being. My co-worker talks her down. Crisis, for the moment, averted. But I have to leave the desk, compose myself in the circ room. 

Back in the garden I look up "weird smelly orange tuber fungus" on my phone and find this: 

If it smells like putrid, rotting meat, you're probably dealing with stinkhorn mushrooms.

It's not a big deal, according to the article, won't hurt your other plants or your pets. But you may want to close your windows... 

It does smell bad. Really bad. I am not exaggerating when I say that I feel personally and viscerally attacked by this thing. And what an unwelcome surprise. Only a few weeks ago my husband and I were on vacation with friends. We had one of the best meals of our lives, inside a restaurant, waited on by masked servers. After dinner one of them led us out onto the patio. 

I was so stuffed from the food, I couldn't even think about dessert, but the waitress talked me into an after dinner drink. It tasted like a toasted almond bar. Twinkly lights hung in the trees around the patio. We admired stone hand chairs in the nearby garden. Clinked glasses and dug into the same dessert plates. Maybe we had passed the worst of it, we said to each other. Maybe we made it through to the other side of this plague unscathed. 

The plexiglass partitions came down from around the library desks. At the grocery store you could walk in any direction you wanted in the aisles. But then, just like that, boom! The virus cases in the state doubled. Tripled. Cars line up outside the emergency room drop off as I drive past the hospital on my way to work. 

I'm writing another rom-com, even though I feel the opposite of rom-my and com-my. Still, every day when I descend into the world I created, I can make myself smile. These people love each other, even if they don't know it yet. It's a zany place where they live and there are all kinds of seemingly unsurmountable problems, but nothing that can't be solved over the course of 75,000 words. 

I don't know what to do about the stinkhorn. The article says it may be beneficial to the garden soil. On the other hand, there's the putrid rotting meat smell that attracts flies. This is a no-brainer. I dig it up and bury it in the trash. 

*TRIGGER WARNING (you may not want to look at this stinkhorn)


  1. Have never in 80nyears of gardening seen anything like that

    1. This make me feel both better and worse! The article I read said they're often found in decomposing matter-- old mulch, rotting wood. I did have some mulch around the marigolds...but I don't normally put mulch around my vegetables, so
      let's hope this is a one-off!

  2. OMG--I just saw one of these this morning for the first time in my life. I was out on a walk and it was just popping up out of the ground erection! I took a picture too-hehe.

    1. Update: I found another one this morning. Nothing last night, and boom! A full blown stinkhorn in the morning. It's wretched.