Monday, September 7, 2009

Alien Wang Shroom

We've had a great deal of rainy weather round the Borderland for most of the summer. So much so that for several weeks we had a fairly large crop of mushrooms growing throughout our immediate back yard and down the wooded backside of our property. With such a large variety of fungus available, the wife and I began to wonder if any of them were edible. Granted, not all of them looked or smelled appetizing, but there were several varieties that smelled good enough that we suspected they might taste delicious if sautéed in a little butter. We were not, however, going to take any chances, particularly when there are some poisonous mushrooms that can destroy your liver and kidneys.

We did a little research online into the sort of mushrooms native to our area, but were never entirely happy with the results we found. Finally, we decided to spend some money on the task and purchased Mushrooms of West Virginia and the Central Appalachians, by William Roody. It's a nice thick volume with color pictures of every featured variety, categorized by appearance and type. Of course, no sooner had the book arrived then two weeks of solid dry weather set in and all the mushrooms melted into puddles of blackness.

Last night it came a rain which lasted until mid morning today. This afternoon, I gathered up a basket and went out to see what might have come up. Not far behind our wood pile, I saw something white and stalky poking out of the leaves. On closer inspection, I could see that it was a mushroom unlike any I've seen around here before, as this one had a slimy, dark green cap. I pulled it from the ground and it came away easily, but I could see that there was something more left beneath the leaves. Sure enough, there was a fleshy, partially transparent egg-like body there--not entirely dissimilar from the eggs in the ALIEN movies. I carefully gathered it up and stuck the stalk of the mushroom back within it. To my horrified fascination, I discovered that what I had there in my hand was the most phallic mushroom I've ever seen. It looked exactly as if when God was designing it he basically said, yep, gonna make this one look exactly like a wang, no two ways about it. They're gonna take one look and say, `that, sir, looks like a wang, all right.' As far as fungus wangs go, however, this was possibly the nastiest, most alien-looking wang to be found outside of certain substrata of anime. And, whoo, did it stink. No, let me rephrase that: it was Mr. Stankyesque in the foetid intensity of its stench. Naturally, I didn't fully realize this until I'd carried it into the house to show the wife, contaminating pretty much the premises in the process.

Using my new guide book, I was able to successfully classify this alien wang-shroom and found that its data could not be more appropriate in nearly every way.

Latin name: Dictyophora duplicata
Synonym: Phallus duplicatus (insert Harry Potter spell-casting joke here)
Common Name: Netted Stinkhorn; Wood Witch
Order: Phallales
Family: Phallaceae

Astoundingly, it is edible, but only in the "egg stage" (which goes to prove that even Bill Roody knows an ALIENS reference when he sees one). Once the mushroom is, um, erect, however, there's just nothing less appetizing, as the slimy green cap and overall stench attracts bugs to it, which pick up reproductive spores from the slime and spread them wherever they go. In fact, between the time I left the thing on the deck rail, went and found more mushrooms and came back to classify them, the wang shroom was pretty much covered in flies. I, then, didn't help matters by trying to hurl the offensive thing into the woods, doing so by throwing it holding only the relatively slime-free stalk. Trouble is, that stalk isn't nearly as solid as you might expect and the whole thing exploded upon my attempt, sending a shower of slime everywhere. Which probably means, we'll have more of them springing up in the future.

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