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Species: C. ruber
P. Micheli ex Pers. (1801)
Clathrus cancellatus Tourn. ex Fr.
no distinct cap
hymenium attachment is irregular or not applicable
lacks a stipe
spore print is olive-brown
ecology is saprotrophic
Clathrus ruber is a saprobic species of fungus in the family Phallaceae. It is commonly known as the latticed stinkhorn, the basket stinkhorn, or the red cage, alluding to the fruiting bodies that are shaped somewhat like a round or oval ball with interlaced or latticed branches. Covered with a slime layer on the inner surfaces, this inedible species has a fetid odor, described by some as rotting meat, that attracts flies and other insects to help disperse the spores.
Prior to the opening of the volva, the fruiting body is egg-shaped with a gelatinous interior, and white to grayish in color. After opening, it is a red or orange receptacle consisting of a spongy network with meshes of unequal size. A considerable variation in height has been noted for this species, ranging from 8–20 cm (3.1–7.9 in) tall. The dark, foul smelling gleba covers the inner surface of the receptacle and the basal portion of the receptacle is surrounded by a white volva with a central mycelial cord. The spores are elongated, smooth, and have dimensions of 5–6 x 1.7–2 µm.
This species may be distinguished from the closely related tropical species Clathrus crispus by the absence of corrugated rims which surround each mesh of the C. crispus sporocarp.
This fungus grows alone or clustered together near woody debris, in lawns, gardens, and cultivated soil.
Although edibility for C. ruber has not been officially documented, its foul smell would dissuade most individuals from consuming it.
Dr. F. Peyre Porcher, of Charleston, South Carolina, United States (1854) provided an early account of poisoning by this species:
"A young person having eaten a bit of it, after six hours suffered from a painful tension of the lower stomach, and violent convulsions. He lost the use of his speech, and fell into a state of stupor, which lasted for forty-eight hours. After taking an emetic he threw up a fragment of the mushroom, with two worms, and mucus, tinged with blood. Milk, oil, and emollient fomentations, were then employed with success."
This species was once referred to by American authors as C. cancellatus L., based on the former American Code of Botanical Nomenclature, in which the starting point was Linnaeus's Species plantarum (1753). The International Code for Botanical Nomenclature now has the same starting date, but names of Gasteromycetes used by Christian Hendrik Persoon in his Synopsis methodica fungorum (1801) are "sanctioned" and cannot be replaced by earlier names. Since Persoon used the specific epithet ruber, the correct name for the species is Clathrus ruber.
Clathrus ruber was originally described from Italy and is native to southern and central continental Europe, Macaronesia (Azores and Canary Islands), North Africa (Algeria), and western Asia (Iran). It may have extended its range northwards into the British Isles or been introduced in the nineteenth century. It now has a mainly southerly distribution in England and has been recorded from Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Somerset, the Isle of Wight, Hampshire, Sussex, Surrey, and Middlesex. In Scotland, it has been recorded from Argyll. It is also known from Wales, the Channel Islands and Ireland.
The species has probably been introduced elsewhere. It now also occurs in the United States (California, Florida, Georgia, Virginia, North Carolina, and New York), Australasia, Canada, and Mexico. Records from Japan are referable to Clathrus kusanoi. Records from the Caribbean are probably of C. crispus.
Clathrus ruber is listed in the Red data book of Ukraine."
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