If you've looked out the windows of the former Bird Observation Building at Fox Island Park in the last couple of weeks you have probably noticed that the mulch under the bird feeders has several red spikes rising out of it that are about 6" to 8" tall. These spikes are actually a fungi known as Elegant Stinkhorn (Mutinus elegans). While this fungi is a colorful contrast to the brown mulch the smell given off by these slimy spikes reminds one of rotting meat.
Like the plant Skunk Cabbage the smell given off by this fungi serves to attract flies that land on the smelly slime covering and eat some of this smelly ooze and thus carry off many spores on their feet and intestinal tract that will begin the next generation of the stinkhorn. The stinkhorn fungi are typically found in (you guessed it) wood mulch.
Photos: J. Ormiston