Lynne Hagen, Master Gardener Program Coordinator, Anoka County
One never knows what curiosities can arrive in a county Master Gardener office. A phone call from a client came in with the request of identifying an object that was found in her yard. The client wasn't sure if it was an animal part, a plant or fungus. Since the person calling raised chickens and ducks, she thought perhaps it was a deformed body part but wasn't convinced. This piqued my curiosity. Upon receiving the photos, the image was forwarded a couple of Master Gardener and Extension colleagues, as well as the Bell Museum. After a little sleuthing, David McLaughlin, from the Department of Plant Biology confirmed that it was a rare stinkhorn mushroom and most likely, a Lizard's Claw Stinkhorn Mushroom, Lysurus cruciatus. He stated, "What is shown in the pictures are the stem and apical, spore-forming area. These arise from a sack-like structure in the substrate. The spores usually have a strong odor and attract beetles and flies which carry the spores away. This genus is believed to be introduced here."
Photo: Lizard's Claw Stinkhorn Mushroom, Lysurus cruciatus. Jill Libby.
Some of the information found stated that the origin is New Zealand and Australia. McLaughlin said there are only two records of this genus in Minnesota. The client that found the object saved the specimen and donated it to the Bell Museum for their collection. Anoka County continues to be full of surprises.