There are horn-shaped, foul-smelling objects growing in my mulched flower beds. What are they?
The foul-smelling objects are likely stinkhorns. Stinkhorns are a type of fungus or mushroom. The common name is derived from their appearance and smell. Stinkhorns usually appear in cool, wet periods in late summer and early fall.
Several species of stinkhorn are found in Iowa. The fungi live off dead organic matter and are commonly found in mulched areas in the landscape. Stinkhorns start off as an egg-like, golf ball-sized structure in the soil. As the fungus develops, a stalk grows upward and is topped with a slimy cap coated with a mass of olive green to brown spores. The putrid smell of the stinkhorn cap attracts flies and other insects. The flies and other insects crawl on the stinkhorn, get covered with slime and spores, then fly away to other areas, disseminating the spores. Stinkhorns range from about four to eight inches in height.
Stinkhorns are not poisonous or harmful to plants or people. Eventually, the stinkhorns wither away and disappear. Individuals can rake up and discard the fungi if their appearance or smell are bothersome.