The piney woods of east Texas can be lovely — as dark and deep in autumn as Robert Frost’s winter woods — but there are strange things happening out there.
When I came across this slick, glistening mushroom on an early morning walk, the flies exploring its surface certainly didn’t add to its appeal. Part of the genus known as Ormia, the flies parasitize crickets or just wander around, noshing on decaying material on the forest floor.
The mushroom itself seemed to be melting away — rather like the famous cake Richard Harris left out in the rain in his version of the Jimmy Webb song titled “MacArthur Park.” Still, weird as the mushroom was, and odd as its ability to evoke Harris’s recording might be, there are even weirder — no, spookier — fungi lurking about.
Hatching from an egg-like shell, the fungus develops four to eight ‘arms’ which seem to beckon to unwary hikers. Black spores, scattered across its reddish skin, exude an odor that helps to explain its second common name: octopus stinkhorn.
If you’re one who favors a little scare on Halloween, forget the haunted house or the horror movie. Nature has a treat for you — just don’t take it home and add it to your stash of candy.
Comments always are welcome.