Tuesday 15 May 2007

#12 Aseroe rubra

Aseroe rubra, commonly called Anemone Stinkhorn or Starfish Fungus, is from family Phallaceae. Pronunciation Ass-er-row-ee roo-bra.

Stinkhorns are short-lived fungi rising from gelatinous egg-like sacs, and upon maturity, produce a sticky spore-bearing substance with a foul smell that attracts flies. The flies injest and trample the spores, therefore distributing them further afield providing a means of starting new fungi colonies.

Aseroe rubra with two unruptured egg-like sacs

Aseroe rubra grows in high altitude grasslands and woodlands, and is also often seen in gardens and woodchips. According to Fungimap Australia, its distribution includes southeastern Qld, eastern NSW, eastern Vic, Tasmania, and southeastern SA.

The red arms that are split at the tip, emerge from a gelatinous dirty-white egg-like sac up to 30mm diameter. The hollow stem of the fruiting body can reach 100mm, or can be ground-hugging. There are between 6 and 9 pairs of 'arms'.

If an egg-like sac is dissected, it contains a fully formed compressed fruiting body.

There are more pictures of Aseroe rubra and other stinkhorn fungi on my Nature Blog.

A wrinkled arm emerging from gelatinous sac

The ragged cup-like volva forms from the 'egg'

My sightings of Aseroe rubra
[This will be updated with future sightings]
Barrington Tops National Park - rainforest on Gloucester Tops: Jan, Mar.
New England National Park - alpine grassland: May.
Hunter Region Botanic Gardens - Heatherbrae, NSW - in mulched gardens: Feb, Apr, May, Jul, Aug, Oct, Jun 2011, Jun 2012.

Brunkerville, NSW - on natural leaf litter in mixed forest, Jun 2011.

Newcastle University, NSW - on mulched gardens, Jun 2012.


Anonymous said...

My name is kumats @ Sydney.
Recently I found this disgusting fungi in my garden. I digged them up and dumped into a bin. However, within a week, they started to grow and now they invade the garden so quickly.
Is there any way to exterminate hyphae without damaging my plants?
It would be great if you could give me an advice.

Thank you in advance.

Tony said...

Thanks for this. You have helped identify the weird and SMELLY fungus on our nature strip. I have 6 of these growing in a rose/spring bulb garden which is heavily mulched with large pine chunks.
Mid Blue Mountains, NSW, Australia, 1st June 2009

Gaye said...

Hello Kumats,

I apologise for the lengthy delay in posting up your comment and a reply.

As far as I am aware, it is not possible to completely remove the fungi hyphae, as microscopic threads entwine everything in the substrate. All I can suggest is removal of the offending fungus when it fruits. If you are able to be vigilent and remove the white gelatinous 'eggs' before the fungi sprout from them, that will eliminate the stench.

Good luck with it.


Gaye said...

Hello Tony,

thank you very much for leaving your comment of the whereabouts of your find. It is interesting to know of the location of these, and other, fungi.


John Mann said...


Over the last week, I have found ~15 of these in my front garden which contains heavily mulched native plants.

I hadn't been bothered by the smell yet. It looks to me like snails love eating this fungus!

Location is Mont Albert, suburban Melbourne.


ReNew Group Marketing said...


We've had a burst of these flourish in our heavily mulched native garden after weeks of torrential rain. Location is Blackall Range, Sunshine Coast Hinterland QLD.

:-) Wendy

Unknown said...

Hi, found one of these in our front garden in Blackheath at the end of March, the soil is very acid and pine-needley. We had an extraordinarily wet early summer which may have contributed.

Gaye said...

Sincere thanks to all readers who have responded regarding sightings of this fungus.

Please keep them coming :)


@steve_happ said...

Hello Gaye,
I have seen one of these weird fungi at Galgabba Point at Swansea. I took a photo of it and put in my blog.


I saw Dennis's fantastic post on the Patrick Starfish Fungus as well. Fantastic stuff.


Gaye said...

Hello Steve,

I'm glad you have found my fungi blog. Right now is excellent conditions for fungi, and it's good to know you are enjoying your finds.

The stinkhorns of which the Starfish fungus belongs, is a fascinating group. I have found some beauties:

This one is a beauty, and besides finding it in my yard, I found some great specimens at the Rose Gardens at Jesmond. It springs from it's 'egg' like some invading alien creature:


I've seen this weird stalk-like stinkhorn several times at the Botanic Gardens at Heatherbrae:


And I've found this one twice at the Wetland Centre at Shortland:


And on my Hunter Valley Backyard Nature blog, I have a page identifying several stinkhorns, including 2 that I have not yet put onto my Fungi Blog:


Fungi are difficult to identify, and usually require a detailed observation of the undersurface of the fungus. I have been fungus hunting today and found some beauties.

Enjoy your fungus sightings - they are a lot more cooperative to photograph than the birds are :)


lake munmorah said...

hi I found a pink fungi with numerous legs, the kids are very excited and want to know wat it is, we found a sinkhorn near by a few weeks ago and this has some similar features. how do i fibnd out what it is

Gaye said...

Hello Lake Munmorah,

I would like to help you out with an identification, but I need some more information, please.

Are the "legs" joined to the earth with the body of the fungus above them? Or are they like the tentacles of Aseroe Rubra sticking up in the air? What does the rest of the fungus look like?

Is there any chance you can email me a picture? My email link is on the home page of my blog.


Anonymous said...


thanks for the easy identification of this foul smelling fungus, i honestly thought someone had killed an animal and left it to rot on my nature strip. We are in Sth Qld, have had heavy rains and they appear in our mulch too. i have poured bleach on them and hope this will kill them.


Neil said...

Hi Gaye,
We live in the Illawarra and I have found some of these in our mulched gardens. We have had heaps of rain of late.
Thanks for you help with the I.D. and may I offer a small word of advice. Dont hit them with the whipper snipper. Thats sort of how I found the others :)

Lilian's Tree said...

Lilian from Panania. I have them in my backyard, growing in the grass. I took some photos and the flies show up really well. Will now wait to see what happens.

Gaye said...

Hello Natalie, Neil, and Lilian,

thank you all for leaving comments about finding this weird stinkhorn fungus. I'll have to look up Panania as I haven't heard of it before.

And Neil, I'm glad I didn't have to wash your clothes after the whipper-snipper encounter with them - yuk.


Dan said...

Hi, found A.rubra growing in profusion in the mulch on the median strip of Manchester road, Mooroolbark. The flower like cap is removeable, and inside was a small community of spiders, woodlice, and flies. Also noticed slug and snail trails too. They seem to have sprouted after the recent heavy rains here.

Gaye said...

Hi Dan, great to have a Melbourne sighting, thank you.

And fancy that, a whole little diverse community making a temporary home in the hollow stalk, and no doubt helping to spread the spores when they move out :)



lesterz said...

Aseroe rubra. We have found this fungi at a child care centre in Toowoomba Qld. Can anyone advise if it poisonous or harmful to children. Thanks

Gaye said...

Hello lesterz,

thank you for your message. As far as I'm aware, they are harmless, but if it was my choice at the child care centre, I would remove them so that the children don't touch them - being covered in flies as they are for transferal of spores, they will harbour bacteria, and I know how inquisitive and fearless children are. If the children were past the stage of shoving disgusting things in their mouths, I would use the fungi as a nature lesson, but if they are toddlers to 5 year-olds, I would get rid of them.

I do hope you and all at the childcare centre have escaped the disastrous flooding.

Kind regards,

Anonymous said...

I have found this horrible smelly plant in my mulched garden in Wagga Wagga. I had no idea what it was until I read your blogs.

Thank you for all your information and I am going to try and get rid of it!

karen said...

Hi Gaye,
Have these growing prolifically in wood chip mulch under natives on the south coast of NSW. after all the rain, saw one or 2 now they are everywhere. maybe I'm missing something as they don't seem to smell, I haven't disturb them though.

Gaye said...

Hello Karen,

it is my experience that unless you are down at eye level with them, or disturb them, the offensive odour that they emit is often hardly detectable. Lucky that !


Gaye said...

Hello Anonymous from Wagga Wagga,

I'm pleased that my fungi blog was able to help you identify the invasion in your garden. I guess, en mass, they could be a pest. I've never had them in my garden.


Ms Z said...

Hi Gaye. I live in Dee Why, on the Northern Beaches of Sydney. I have noticed two of these in my garden this week, and was glad to be able to find them on your website - thanks so much for providing an education for us! Anyway, they are growing with the native plants, that have a reasonable mulching, but the soil is quite sandy underneath. It has been raining heavily over the past week, and form others comments, this seems to be the conditions they like. Haven't noticed any smell from them at all. I've also noticed that something seems to be eating them.

Is there are any reference material available about Australian native edible fungus??

Phillip said...

I found one in Berowra Heights. We've had torrents of rain over the past week, so the soil is very moist. No introduced eucalyptus mulch only homemade mulch, although on closer inspection it was growing under eucalyptus leaves. I would warm people not to touch the Aseroe rubra – I’ve washed my hands three times and the smell is still on them! Being intrigued I went back and scratched about WITH GLOVES ON and found white mycelium spreading out in a circle about 50cm in diameter (so I expect a further crop of Aseroe rubra) and two egg sacs which I removed. The area it was in is largely undisturbed and the habitat of native plants. A young tree growing close by has recently become sick and I was wondering if the Aseroe rubra or its mycelium might have caused that?

Gaye said...

Hello Mr Z,

thank you for writing in about your sighting.

There is very little reliable information about edibility of Australian fungi, but I am beginning to add edible/inedible comments to my blogs as I come by reliable information.


Gaye said...

Hello Phillip from Berowra Heights,

Aseroe Rubra do not feed on living plants, so they are not the cause of your sick tree. Perhaps it has just received too much water, or there might be very inconspicuous insect larvae causing some trouble. I hope you find the source.

Aseroe Rubra can grow in undisturbed natural areas - I've seen them growing in the New England National Park in undisturbed environment.

Thank you for your comments, most interesting.

Kind regards,

Erin said...

thanks for this great blog!

My small garden in Homebush, Sydney, has sprung up with these all over the place. I was worried they might attack some new plantings, but from reading above it sounds like they are just enjoying the cane mulch and rain!
I leave them to themselves, as the smell hasn't got to us yet!

Anonymous said...

Thanks Gaye, the information here is good and practical.

We have had these stinkstars (that's what the kids call them!) appear after good soaking rains leading into spring. It is now late September and they have returned to a mulched bank under light native cover. Also have had two bower birds take up residence, whic explains where all the dark blue pegs went.

Location West Pennant Hills Valley NSW.

Anonymous said...

Hi, I live out in western sydney, Wetherill Park to be exact, and I have been finding these ugly mushrooms for about 2 weeks in our garden which had been heavily mulched before we bought our house. Can I some how kill these tnings off, any ideas would be helpful as I have a very curious 18month old who loves digging in the garden where I have discovered them. Also can they have any effects on humans, I became quite ill after removing about 25 or so fully bloomed ones and a few pods. I did where rubber gloves

Leila said...

Hi Gaye,

We live in Port Kembla - in the Illawarra and just found a colony of these in our (wood chip mulched) garden. They look amazing and alien. I've never had such funky fungi in my garden before. Thankyou for putting the information up so we know what they are.


Anonymous said...

I found these growing this morning in Woodchip placed by the local council near a Suburban Wetland / Detention Pond.

Location - (Northern End)
Elsdon St
Lake Macquarie
NSW 2290

Keep up the good work

Anonymous said...

It's not disgusting at all; it's very beautiful. I found several down at the mulched garden near the scout hall in Hartwell and was entranced. One of my dogs dug one up to my chagrin at the time, but seeing it unearthed was even more interesting. In this case, all is below the surface, only the red 'petals' appearing flat against the woodchip mulch. There was no slime around the central hollow part, which was white and led down 6 or 7 cm to a small aperture about 3mm wide. The whole thing was perfectly clean and odourless, and yet another miracle of natural evolutionary 'design'. Kumuts, who thinks this amazing thing is 'disgusting' should perhaps go and stay for a while in Borneo, home of the Carrion Flower, for perspective... in any case, with his ungrammatical talk of extermination, depart this land.

Gaye said...

I agree, let these mysterious life forms thrive and decorate our gardens.


Martha said...

Thank you! My daughter and I spotted one this weekend at Eltham VIC and although I guessed it was a mushroom of some sort, that was as much as I could come up with. It's great to have identified it.

Spotted it in heavily shaded wood mulch, covered in flies, but didn't notice any smell. I don't have a picture but it was very similar to this: http://botany.cz/cs/clathrus-archeri/

Anonymous said...

i have the same thing i hope my dog does not eat it will she die if she eats it
they are all around my garden bed they look a bit like the rafflesia aldoni the biggest plant in indonesia but only smaller the flies love it it now has like rocks or mushrooms growing around it weird

Gaye said...

Hello Anonymous,

I have heard conflicting reports and as I am not an expert in this field, I can not say for sure if they will harm your dog.

If your dog is one that eats anything and everything, it might be advisable to shovel them up and dispose of them if you are concerned.

The 'rocks' or mushrooms that are surrounding them could be the 'eggs' of more stinkhorns. The 'eggs' are round gelatinous egg-like structures that the stinkhorn emerges from.


Anonymous said...

G'day .. recently found a few of these in my garden (Ryde, NSW). Thanks for the description that you have in your blog. At least now I know that it is not as dangerous as it seemed to be :)

Mila (Randwick) said...

I found a sea anemometer stinkhorns (A. rubra) in a local playground in Randwick in December 2011. Now I have one growing in my garden in Randwick. We visit the upper hunter regularly but probably did not bring the spores. Partner was very sick with gastro last weekend after mowing lawn and is always weeding without gloves. Wonder if this has anything todo with it. I was not sick nor two children under 5, but worry about 21 mth old daughter who is always picking and playing in dirt and trying to ingest things. Any reports of gastro from this fungi?

Anonymous said...

Hi there, thanks for you blog, which had helped me identify the 'things' in my back yard. I have found two smelly juvenile stalks and at first I thought they were some sort of dead animals penis!!! Very relieved they are not. We are in Leichhardt in Sydney.

Cheers LH

Gaye said...

Hello Mila from Randwick,

sorry for the delay in responding to your comment. I haven't heard of Aseroe Rubra causing gastro from something like mowing, but with a small inquisitive child in the yard, I would be inclined to get rid of the stinkhorns to be on the safe side. Even if they're not directly linked to illness, they must surely harbour unlimited bacteria.


Jon Willis said...

I just found one in the garden at UQ, growing amongst woodchips, and was sure that tomorrow was going to be the Day of the Triffids, or worse that I had discovered something new that might eventually bear my name.

Gaye said...

Hello Jon,

thank you for your sighting. I checked out your blogsite and determined that 'UQ' is University of Queensland.


JKnowles said...

We just found Aseröe rubra in our backyard in Northern Virginia? Is that normal? We also have 2 little dogs (under 10 pounds) - Is this toxic to them if they digest them? I would like to know how best to kill these thigns.

Anonymous said...

Hi I've recently found this fungi in my garden at Albion park rail. I thought the smell was the neighbors cat doing it's business in my garden, then spotted it growing in the garden (right under my bedroom window!) it's the first time it's ever been in my garden. Was hoping I could get rid of it but after reading above posts I may not be so lucky. Is it unusual for it to be growing here? Also is it toxic to children ?

Carmelo Aquilina said...

Hi there

Great blog ! We found one in our garden in Leichhardt which our dog had dug up and was trying to eat . wonderful fungus - wish I'd seen it before it was dug up as it would have made a great picture


evelyn said...

The very first time i ever spotted this fungi inbetween the moist mulch in the garden, after much much rain.Nanango.Qld.

Tone said...

I found two of these in the bush behind my house in South Hobart, Southern Tasmania yesterday after never having seen them before, on the moist shadow side of a hill. Wasn't sure if they were introduced.
Here are links to some photos I took:


Feel free to repost them if you like.
Thanks for providing the info on your blog :)

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for helping me identify this ugly little guy that has been popping up all over my lawn. I was very surprised to see a slug come crawling out of one! I'm at Lake Haven, central coast.

Ditch2290 said...

Spotted two of these in Dudley near Newcastle growing in mulch. Thanks for helping me identify them!

Peter Smith said...

Hi Found this thing Aseroe rubra in the garden at Mud Flat road Drake under a bansksia rose bush regards Peter

Al Ross Christchurch said...

Found a couple at lake Hawea, South island, New Zealand too.

Aklys said...

I found some of these today in our front yard. not sure if you are still interested in knowing the locations of this.

Found in Penrith area.

Anonymous said...

Have found quite a few in my garden, Jacobs Well , Nth Gold Coast.

Anonymous said...

I just found three of these mushrooms in my garden at Old Toongabbie(Western Sydney). Surpurised they are growing here as some articles said it is a tropical/sub-tropical fungus...

Gail from Castle Hill said...

Gail from Castle Hill, Sydney
Thanks for the very interesting and informative information on this fungus. We recently put cypress chips on our garden as a mulch, so I guess that is where our specimen came from. It will be interesting to see if it is a "one off".