Meet the Ravenel Stinkhorn - A Divine Stench

Something you may not know about me is that I’m an amateur mycologist. That’s probably a bit exaggerated, but I love to find and identify mushrooms. I do it enough that people closer to me will occasionally send me pictures of mushrooms they find with the hopes that I can identify it for them.

The Ravenel Stinkhorn uses a rancid slime coat to attract flies and similar insects who will become unwittingly spread its spores to other places.

The Ravenel Stinkhorn uses a rancid slime coat to attract flies and similar insects who will become unwittingly spread its spores to other places.

Recently, I got a text message from a friend with a picture of the mushroom seen here. I immediately recognized it, though I had never personally found one. However, there are often look-alikes and as I was not personally familiar with this shroom, I decided to look it up and confirm that my buddy had, indeed, found a Ravenel’s Stinkhorn (phallus ravenelli).

When you see this stinkhorn, you’ll understand how it came about to get its Latin name. I’ll leave that part up for you to figure out. However, this particular mushroom has a pale colored stem with an army-green slime coat on top. The stem seems to protrude through the slime coat creating a small hole at the top.

Stinkhorns, as a group, use a very interesting technique for reproduction. Mushrooms reproduce using spores. Your average mushroom produces spores on their gills beneath the cap which they release as a fine powder and can be blown around to other areas. However, stinkhorns get their name because they stink. They produce a “slime” that simply has a rancid, foul odor. It can easily be equated to a rotting animal carcass. This makes sense when you consider the consequence. Insects, such as flies, which are attracted to such scents for a variety of reasons, will find their way to the stinkhorn and after landing on the mushroom, pick up the spores as they step through the slime coating. Then the insect flies away and will spread the spores wherever they land next.

This is pretty cool but it also has life lessons in it. One of my biggest reasons for enjoying the outdoors is that nature retains the fingerprint of God. There is wisdom in every way of nature as it was derived from the Creator. Psalm 19:1-The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.

So, I consider the fly which helps the stinkhorn spread its spores. We are a lot like this fly and the stinkhorn is anything in which we give attention or passion. Everywhere we go and everyone and everything we interact with leaves something with us; their spores. We spread those impacts to others. As Christians, and as humans in general, we should be acutely aware of the spores that we allow into our lives. Some of these are easy to consider. We often point out the “big ones” from which we are usually separated such as drug and alcohol abuse. But consider the fly, once again. It does not know it is landing on a mushroom and spreading spores. It thought it found dinner or a place to lay its eggs. It transports the spores unwittingly. It is drawn in by a clever disguise.

We are not often drawn into sin blatantly.

The television we watch and the music we listen to leaves spores. It impacts our mind and our moods which we then take to others. The people we allow into our lives socially leave spores. The conversations we allow ourselves to be part of leave spores. The way we spend our free time does as well. All of these things leave an imprint on our character which impacts the way we impact our family, children, friends and acquaintances. Nothing is innocent in this regard. We ourselves are stinkhorns as well for everyone and everything we with which we interact.

The stinkhorn is not evil just as the entirety of the world around us is not evil. There are many people, places, conversations and hobbies that can have positive impacts and leave spores that we want to spread. The key is having an awareness of what we are stepping in and what we are spreading to everyone around us. Be careful where you land!