Monday 29 June 2009

#32 Ileodictyon gracile

Ileodictyon gracile (Smooth Cage) is a stinkhorn fungus. There is nothing horn-like in the appearance of this fascinating fungus, rather, it resembles a lattice structure, and is therefore sometimes referred to as Lattice or Basket Stinkhorn Fungus.

With a gentle nudge with the boot, this fungus sprung from its outer skin with the speed and surprise of a Jack-in-the-box - it was an exciting spectacle. I nudged others, but they obviously were not mature, and did not spring open.

An intact Illeodictyon gracile (Smooth Cage)
is made up of polygons resembling a hollow soccer ball

I have had a marvellous time observing these fungi in my garden following recent rain. As soon as I discovered the 'eggs' amongst fallen autumn leaves on my lawn, and felt their rubbery texture, I realised they were a stinkhorn fungus of some sort.

Habitat of Ileodictyon gracile includes mulch and woodchips, on the ground and leaf litter in gardens or on edges of tracks, and in native forests in southern Australia. It grows singly or in groups, and according to Fungimap Australia, is common and widespread.

An 'egg' (unopened sac) of Ileodictyon gracile
- off-white in colour and up to 40mm diameter

A dissected young 'egg' of Ileodictyon gracile

The flat arms broaden out where they join, distinguishing this fungus from the similar Ileodictyon cibarium (Crinkled Cage). The fruit body can apparently be up to 300mm in diameter, with up to 30 meshes formed by a spherical network of linked arms. The cage can become free from the remains of the casing and roll freely along the ground. The width of the arms is up to 5mm.

I unintentionally ran over this stinkhorn egg with
the mower, exposing the folded 'arms'

The spore mass (gleba) is brown and slimy, and forms on the inside of the arms. It smells sour, but not fetid like some other stinkhorn species.

Notice the widening of the arms where they join (an identifying feature). Also notice the remains of the outer skin ('egg') of the fungus on the right. This stinkhorn has been damaged by slugs and rain.

Ileodictyon gracile is reported to be native to Australia, New Zealand, and Chile, and has been introduced in East Africa and Europe.

My sightings of Ileodictyon gracile
[This will be updated with fresh observations]

Singleton (Hunter Valley, NSW) - Urban, on ground under deciduous tree - Jun 2009, Jul 2010, Jul 2011

Jesmond (Hunter Valley, NSW) - Parkland, on woodchipped garden - Jun 2009

Below is a series of photos showing interesting characteristics. An egg of Ileodictyon gracile in my lawn has been invaded by slugs - note, in this image, the slug has its head buried in the fungus . . . . .

. . . . . as slugs have been feeding on this fungus for a week, I presumed the stinkhorn would not reach maturity intact, so I picked it to examine it - note the conical shape . . . . .

. . . . . I carefully peeled the outer skin from the fungus, leaving a solid structure with the feel and consistency of hardened gelatine. When I pulled the outer pieces from the stinkhorn, the imprint of the lattice arms was left (the dark speckles are dirt) . . . . .

. . . . . the Smooth Cage was compacted like tough rubber, and could not be separated without breakage - I presume that as air had reached the fungus via the hole the slugs were feeding through, the fungus has hardened. Note, the brown substance adhered to the inside of the arms is the gleba (spore mass), which had also hardened.


Denis Wilson said...

Terrific post, Gaye.
Great detail, as ever.
My fist encounter with these Lattice Fungi was years ago in Canberra. I had a garden surrounded by huge Cedar trees (Cedrus deodara). The leaf litter was very thick, and I was weeding in the garden within the root zone of the trees.
I accidentally disturbed the casing of one of these eggs (which was just below the surface) and this "creature" emerged, and rolled across the ground toward me.
I had no idea what it was - literally I did not know if it was animal or vegetable or what.
(I now know enough about Fungi to know that the question is not easily resolved like that, either!)
Anyway, my heart settled down after a few moments, and I then examined it, much as you have done.
So thanks for the memories.
As I said, a great post.

Junior Lepid said...

Great post Gaye and very informative.

I've been looking for these. I should have them with the right growing conditions, but no luck to date.

I'll keep looking!

Gaye said...

Hello Denis,

thank you for sharing your interesting encounter with these weird fungi - like something from an alien movie, for sure!


Gaye said...

Hi Junior Lepid,

thank you, and I do hope you find this beaut stinkhorn. As soon as I have got over the excitement of finding another fascinating species of stinkhorn fungus, I am wanting to find another new one!


Anonymous said...

i found some of these
while weeding in an industrial complex in matraville near port botany.
freaky stuff.
they look like hollow soccer balls!
u could even play soccer with them.

Phillip Diprose said...

Thanks very much for this post, Gaye
I found one of these 'things' on our farm and sent off a photo to a friend to try and find out what it was. In time I ended up finding your article. Here's a link to an article I've posted on my own blogsite that adds just a tad more to the story.

Anonymous said...

Yes - seen these in Adelaide in woodchip mulch at the local rec centre. Seen them in photos before, exciting to see them in reality. Adelaide is perhaps a bit dry for them, so they need a bit of help to escape the egg. Mike.

Anonymous said...

Hello Gaye! I'm new to your blog and I'm glad I found one about fungi with such detailed info.
We don't have any Ileodictyon graciles here but lots of phallus impudicus. Ileodictyon graciles look sophisticated! Are they edible or can they make a nice meal for slugs only? My husband cooks phallus impudicus in various ways and they're very tasty!

Penni Russon said...

I know this is an old post, but I had to say thank you. I just discovered these in our garden, north-east of Melbourne and was trying to identify them. They freaked me out a bit, I've never seen anything like them! But they are also intricately beautiful and the more I think and reflect on them, the more I appreciate their bizarre beauty. Nice to discover they are native too.

They smell kind of yoghurty, or like yakult.

Kellie said...

Hello Gaye, I have been looking up this very fungi today! My daughter found three of these groovy baskets in our garden and one yet to spring. I agree the smell is not so nice but to find something so unusal is very special indeed. Castlemaine Victoria

Beth said...

Just about a week ago, I was watering a pot plant and I noticed some movement in the soil and then all of a sudden, this "thing" started to appear before my eyes. It grew to a size of slightly larger than a tennis ball in about 10 seconds. I wondered if some alien creature had appeared in my courtyard to start taking over the world! :-)

Unfortunately, my camera batteries were flat and I was wondering how I was going to convince people of this near-alien adventure.

Thank you for the information here. It has put my mind at rest! (I'm in Brisbane, Queensland.)

Unknown said...

Hi just found your commnet on this weird and wonderful fugus ..last year if ound a few of the cages on my lawn at the fron in narrandera nsw and i thought they were plasyic rubbish left by kids when they appeared again this year and there were more there this morning I looked a lot closer. i decided they were either alive or someone had been planting them in my yard. I rng my mum who knew they were fungal as she hadseen them on our farm at corobimilla a couple of times years ago theni went to the net and found your blog there would be twenty ofr so of them and they are stinky and totally amazing because they are under a thick buffalo lawn it is only first seen as the cage starts oozing through. Gay Campbell

Anonymous said...

Hello, We have just uncovered a number of these basket funghi in our lawn in Sheffield Tasmania. We have photos if anyone is interested.

Gaye said...

Hello to all who have responded to this post, and thank you for taking the time to do so.

It is very interesting to hear of different climates that the fungus grows in.

I don't know if it is edible, but if anyone has any information regarding it's edibility, I would be most interested to receive a comment here so that others can share in the knowledge.

Kind regards,

Unknown said...

Aren't they fabulous!!! I live in suburban Melbourne, accidently knocked one while picking up dog poo in our back garden; and in front of my eyes this alien thing bloomed. Fortunately there were 2 so my son could witness the next one. I think in my zealous care of the dog, i have probably picked up several before they matured.
We have had a lot of rain lately so the mulch in the yard is quite damp.
Mycologist at the Melb. Botanic gardens said they are not particulalyl rare, but they are tracking them.

Essie said...

We have these guys in our garden in the northern suburbs of melbourne... dug out at least 20 last week, because I thought they were an exotic fungus rather than native... but one popped open into the lattice basket shape and now I think it's the same (native) fungus you have here...

Gaye said...

And thank you Carol and Essie for posting up the whereabouts of more finds of this interesting stinkhorn fungus.


Unknown said...

We found the basket fungi in our garden in NW Tasmania, between Burnie and Ridgley.There were 2 side by side with 1 more advanced than the other.It was an exciting find and was identified by a friend with a fungi book.We have a photo.

Gaye said...

Hello Hedley,

Thank you very much for taking the time to leave a comment regarding your observations - good to know of a Tasmanian sighting.


Jo said...

HI Gaye,
We've been out in the garden today and found over 30 balls amongst the leaf litter, mulch and underneath the Leriope leaves. Mostly in damp areas. Only about 5 of the balls srung open for us. It's now a bit of a challenge for the kids to see if they 'work'. We weren't as shocked today as we were at this time last year when we saw them for the first time!
Camden NSW

Gaye said...

Hello Jo,

thank you for leaving a comment. It is great to get locations of fungus sightings.


Anonymous said...

Hi Gaye,

My wife and I found this fungi in our paddock in Batesford Victoria over the weekend. Several balls by a small native we planted last year. We had mulched using wood chippings from our neighbours property adjacent to the Moorabool river.

It was identified via a photo sent to Tom at the Royal Botanic gardens Melbourne.

dbh Batesford

Gaye said...

Hello dbh Batesford, Victoria,

thank you very much for leaving a comment about your find. Stinkhorn fungi seem to favour mulched sites. It is interesting to build up a bit of a map of where particular fungi species are occurring. Thank you.


Marianne said...

thanks gaye for identifying these "alien brains" i have been finding in my back yard in northcote, growing under natives mulched with european tree mulch.

i would love david attenborough to explain to me how they work!


Anonymous said...

thank you so much for you blog - was very freaked out when I found these egg like things in my garden and even more so when they popped. They are partially covered by a plant in a heavily mulched bed bud the bed does receive almost full day sun and the are growing between mulch and concrete. At least now I can stop stressing

LA - Tullamarine

Mick said...

Hi Gaye,
My wife freaked out today when shee discovered some while remulching our gardens. Not sure how far north they have been found but reading your blog indicates they are quite common in Southern Australia. We are in Kingaroy, QLD. Not sure if I would have ever found out what they were without the power of Google. Thanks.

Zack said...

Thanks so much for this blog. I now know what these "Eggs" are, and am hoping to get them out as soon as possible. dissecting them led to quite disgusting comments, with an orange core in the middle looking like a shrunken, hollow, baby carrot. these were found right outside the city of Chicago, IL, under a young tree, in my back yard, surrounded by off putting white dust (also fungus) in which i first compared them to small, white truffles.

Gaye said...

Hello Zack,

thank you for leaving a comment on my fungi blog.

Your description of the interior of the 'egg' suggests that it is another species of stinkhorn fungi, possibly Phallus rubicundus. Here is my blog entry on them.

Kind regards,

Anonymous said...

Hello Gaye,

I was so pleased to find your blog. We live in Echuca and yesterday my little boy came home with three of these beauties in his kinder bag (thankfully the teacher had put them in a plastic bag!) He had seen them hatch in the tanbark beside the swings and was fascinated. The teachers thought we might be able to find out what they were, so thanks to you we now know. I hope you don't mind but we're going to use some of your fantastic info to make a little project book to take back to kinder to tell everyone about them.
Thanks so much,

Anonymous said...

Hi Gaye

Wow these are amazing, whilst moving a pile of rotting tree branches on our block of land outside Toowoomba, QLD I came across an open fungi resembling a perfect net like soccer ball and laying with this was about 5 perfectly white 'peeled soft boiled egg' like fungus.
At the time I thought they may be eggs of a reptile but after poking one I was amazed to see it open up in front of me and out grew one of these lattice soccer balls... I was amazed!
If only I was still a school kid, what a great 'show and tell' presentation this would have made! Haha


Victoria said...

I live in Campbelltown NSW and found about six 'eggs' in my garden today. I had stepped on one and did not notice at first, however when I turned around I saw this 'thing' growing at a fair pace out of a strange jelly like egg. I thought the aliens had landed!
Extremely cool fungi and so glad they 'landed' in my backyard.

Denis Wilson said...

Hi Victoria.
Yes, I know what you mean.
I commented before that: "I accidentally disturbed the casing of one of these eggs (which was just below the surface) and this "creature" emerged, and rolled across the ground toward me.
I had no idea what it was - literally I did not know if it was animal or vegetable or what."
This is one of Gaye's most enduring Fungi pages.
Like the creatures themselves, this blog post just keeps rolling on.

Gaye said...

Hi everyone,

well it looks like fungus season is still alive in some parts of the country. Thank you all for your comments and sightings of this incredible stinkhorn fungus.

I have recently moved house, and just before I did, there was a brief shower of rain so I checked out the area where I found them last year and the year before, and there they were again - several 'eggs' preparing to 'hatch'.

The amazing world of nature gives us surprises and delights every day, and we who appreciate the intricacies of nature are blessed with enjoyment of the 'little things' all through our lives.

And cheers,

Andrea and Kev said...


I am in Toowoomba Qld and we found three lots of these on the weekend when we were weeding in preparation to replace the mulch we lost in the heavy rains at the beginning of the year - amazing and sure did make us jump when we first touched them.

Thanks for this blog as I couldn't find much detail about them and was so curious about them.

Anonymous said...

We live in Sydney and where the bark and mulch from our logpile had accumalated, we found a whole cluster of what appears like stinkhorns on the outside, but then turn into a red version of sea anemones. The tentacles or petals are a bright red and the inside is brown and slimy. It is amazing to watch these seemingly overnight transform from balls into these elongated "anemones". Has anyone ever seen one?

Denis Wilson said...

Sounds like the Starfish Fungus
Aseroe rubra.
Gaye has covered that species well on her Blog, and I have some images too on my Blog.
Gaye's treatment is better.
Denis Wilson

Damien said...


Thanks for the informative post.

I have been trying to track these down since they emerged two years ago in my garden after a mulch delivery.

Today I removed approximately ten pods with one opening when I touched it.

I am in Western Sydney and these basket fungi seem to show little sign of disappearing from the garden.


Margot Weich said...

Hi, I live in the
Western Cape between Stellenbosch and Somerset West. Last week I stumbled onto these funny looking lattice forms and could not figure out what it was. Walking further into the garden I found more of these 'flat, semisubmerged mushrooms'. And yes, there before my eyes I saw one popping open and the stange lattice ball started emerging. One of these sceletons were almost the size of a soccerball. First I actually thought it was the remnants of a soccerball or some basket the nurseries used to cultivate fynbos plants. Only realised it must be some fungus when I saw the other moulds.
Do you know if they are poisoness and should the be destroyed or saved?

Margot Weich (

Anonymous said...

Hi thanks for the post and all the comments - very informative. I found one of these in the bush near us in Indigo Valley VIC. It was already hatched and lattice shaped into a round ball and I had no idea that they hatched like you have described (I'll have to keep my eye open for more).

Jim D said...

Just found about 20 in our garden bed. Thought they may have been snake eggs at first. Others thought mushrooms or alien eggs! Now to be science demo for school students.

Unknown said...

Thanks for the post. Had to google it after it sprung out at me while digging in the garden in Canberra. Never seen it before.. Very cool!

wiradjuri9 said...

Found one of these fascinating fungi this am. About 45 miles south of Bathurst, NSW. Near the crest of bare, windwhipped hill. Elevation above 600 metres. Only mulch would be scattered roo poo. It emerged near base of a stunted Hibbertia.
I last saw one about 1947-8, in Teatree scrub near Chester Hill railway station.

Anonymous said...

I know this post is old. But just wanted to let you know I have continuously found these in my garden for the last few months. Freaked me out a bit at first. But glad I found this post, and some answers. I'm located on the mornington peninsula, Vic.

Unknown said...

Found some in south parramatta in mulch today. . Fascinating! !