Rude Garden Guests

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There are many ways to describe living things in the garden but rude is rarely a term that comes to mind.

However there are a couple of living things that occasionally show up in gardens in mid-summer where rude is the only way to describe them. 

One is an organism called “Dog Vomit" and the second is something called the “Dog Stinkhorn”. 

Dog Vomit looks just like it sounds; Last week, I was walking past a bed of junipers just outside a restaurant and saw a mass of bright-yellow stuff growing on the mulch. Most people would assume that some poor dog vomited on the mulch but the reality is that the yellow mass is a critter called a slime mold. 

Slime molds feed on organic matter, such as mulch, and usually pop up a day or two after a summer thunderstorm. They don’t harm plants but look rather disgusting and are actually mobile and can move about the garden. Apparently, the movie “The Blob” was inspired by slime molds.

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I found the other rude organism— the Dog Stinkhorn—growing in the middle of a feather reed grass clump in a couple’s backyard. Dog Stinkhorn isn’t a slime mold but— like Dog Vomit—, it enjoys consuming organic matter like mulch and won’t harm garden plants. What makes this mushroom rather rude is both its smell and physical appearance.

The Dog Stinkhorn emits an odour that smells a bit like rotting meat. Flies are attracted to the mushroom thinking they have found a meal but instead find an inedible mushroom. The flies don’t find the food they had hoped for, however, they do manage to carry-off a few of the mushrooms spores to spots where they could germinate and produce new stinkhorns. 

Odour is one thing, but the appearance of the Dog Stinkhorn is quite another. Its Latin name is Mutunis caninis, and it is a member of the Phallaceae family. If you familiar with just a bit of Latin, you’ll know that Phallacea and Mutunis caninis alludes to the fact that the Dog Stinkhorn has a striking resemblance to… well, a part of a male Dog’s anatomy. 

Now, while there is no treatment for either Dog Vomit or Dog Stinkhorn remember that neither will hurt any of your garden plants. Some mulches are worse than others for harbouring these two organisms, although I have never seen either one show up in the "SeaSoil" compost we sell here in the greenhouse.

At the very least, if you have either or both of these creatures show up in your garden during a backyard get together, they are sure to ignite some interesting conversations.

~Jim Hole