Phallus Mushroom Found in Lam Dong, Vietnam

It’s always a good day when you find another Phallus.

There are 28 species of Phallus mushroom and this one, Phallus drewesii, was recently discovered for the first time in Asia by scientists from Vietnam’s Southern Institute of Ecology and reported in the journal Mycosphere.

P. drewesii has been discovered in Vietnam for the first time. Photograph courtesy Nguyen Ngoc Hung

The two-inch-long (five-centimeter-long) species of stinkhorn fungus was first found on the isolated island country of Sâo Tomé and Príncipe off West Africa in 2009.

The team found the new little guys on a field expedition in Bidoup Núi Ba, a Vietnamese national park in the province of Lam Dong. Almost completely forested, the park boasts about 2,000 plant species.

P. drewesii has a shape that mirrors its genus name, but it’s distinguished from other Phallus mushrooms by a number of things.

For one, the mushroom has a patterned white stem, is diminutive in size, and is the only Phallus that both curves downward and has a brown, spore-covered head.

They also, like all stinkhorn mushrooms, give off  a foul stench usually described as rotting meat, which attracts flies that eat and distribute their spores through the forests. Once the small, brown egg is deposited on a piece of wood, it pops up into a mushroom in about four hours.

P. drewesii may be small, droopy, and malodorous, but its namesake doesn’t seem to mind. Discoverers Dennis Desjardin and Brian Perry of San Francisco State University named the fungus after Robert Drewes, curator of herpetology at the California Academy of Sciences, who thought it was “a wonderful honor and great fun to have this phallus-shaped fungus named after me.”

And it’s not the only time a species has been named after him. Drewes’ moniker also graces Arthroelptella drewesii, a frog from South Africa, and Leptotyphlops drewesi, a Kenyan blind worm snake.

Don’t even say it.

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Liz Langley is the award-winning author of Crazy Little Thing: Why Love and Sex Drive Us Mad and has written for many publications including Salon, Details and the Huffington Post. Follow her on Twitter @LizLangley and at www.lizlangley.com
  • tianxu

    I found a similar one in northeastern China about Sept, but only one, is not a group.

  • Liz Langley

    @tianxu How cool! Is there a link where we can see a photo?

  • João

    Nice report. It’s good to see more and more fungi’s stuff in a broad range audience magazines and journals. I hope it keep increasing since the fungi are one, if not the one, most important organisms on Earth!

  • El Gabilon

    Now that it has been “discovered” what can be done with it? Is it ediable? Can some medicine be derived from it? Can the “stink” be converted to perfume? We won’t comment upon the “phallus” part of the story. We need time to “mull” it over.

  • Jim Van Luke

    A phallus mushroom measuring 8 inches in height and 4 inches in circumference grew in our backyard about five years ago. We took a video of it that is under “mushroom category on
    you tube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DsFBFQen5og

  • Debbie Viess

    Hi Liz,
    Nice talking to you about fungi yesterday.

    Yeah, stinkhorns are cool, and stinky, and eye-catching. But even esteemed mycologists like Dennis and Brian like to poke fun at their colleagues. Remember, this was a very SMALL and as you say, droopy Phallus mushroom that they named after their friend! 😉

    I am really writing about the way that you phrased your mushroom description … that the phallus eggs “hatched four hours after being deposited …” by what, a stinky chicken?

    Those “eggs” are merely specialized aggregations of the below ground/within wood fungal organism, which is composed of mycelia.
    A small knot of tissue called a primordium develops on the hidden mycelium, and when sufficient water is absorbed, it will expand greatly. Once it gets pushed up out of the ground and is exposed to air, that envelope of fungal material (the “egg” if you will) tears and expands to form the fruiting body of the fungus, in this case, in the shape of a quasi-phallus.

    I wouldn’t call those eggs “deposited,” though. They actually grew up out of the substrate.

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