Flowers need water to grow, and where there’s water, there is usually fungus. Fungi that begins its life with the look of a round, white egg put on or just under the surface of the ground is likely a stinkhorn fungus (Clathrus sp.) . These soil dwellers proliferate during cool, wet weather. As they grow, they change colors and become orange or pink. It is not the color or even the shape that provide these fungi away, yet: It is their malodorous stench.
Stinkhorn fungi are usually found in wood mulch. The tiny spores attach themselves into the wood, feeding onto it and growing rapidly. They prefer moist conditions and rotting wood, so aged mulch in landscape areas that don’t drain well are prime territory for those fungi. They also develop in soil, particularly soil that’s rich with natural matter.
Appearance & Development
The fungi first develop beneath the soil but quickly split the surface, appearing as white round shapes about the size of golf balls. Some are orange or pink rather than white. Stalks grow upward from the egg. Depending on the species , they might be long or thin, or they might form a lattice pattern. These are the fruiting bodies of the fungi, which is the point where the spores grow. The stalks have been partially covered with a slimy, greenish-brown substance, which is that the spore mass. It only requires a few hours for the fungus to go from the egg stage to the fruiting stage, according to Clemson Cooperative Extension.
No chemical controls exist for killing off stinkhorn fungi, according to Clemson Cooperative Extension. If you would like to eliminate them, do it the moment you find the white egg stage as they are not yet stinky at this time. Measure on or kick them over with your shoes, which will keep them from forming the dirty bananas. Or, just dig them up and remove them. To control for development of stinkhorn fungi, use a dense groundcover plant like liriope, instead of wood mulch, to protect the ground in your flower garden.
Sure , they smell awful, but think twice before you eliminate the stinkhorns: They’re in fact quite useful to your soil. The fungi break down the organic substances in your soil, returning the nutrients into the earth and improving the quality of the soil. Stinkhorn fungi are relatively short-lived, so if you can hold your nose for a couple of days, leave them alone and allow them to make the soil in your flower garden richer. If you are lucky, your flowers will thank you with healthier growth and larger blooms.