Our great garden discovery
I discovered something fascinating in our garden recently. But it wasn't its fascination that drew me initially. That's the difference between my husband and me. Had he spotted it first, he would have immediately seized on this unusual phenomenon in excited wonder. But me? I wandered over to investigate what I considered to be a discarded scrap of red plastic—perhaps the children next door had thrown it over the fence. It was only when I got closer that my curiosity stirred. Was this a flower emerging from the ground with no stem?
Not trusting my own instincts, I cautiously drew my husband away from his desk to justify my building titillation. Indeed, upon closer examination we discovered numerous puffball-like growths, one of which had burst open producing a red “flower” looking much like a contracted star fish. We were to be treated to a half dozen or so more of these “explosions' over the next couple of weeks What were they?
Thanks to our involvement in a local field naturalists group, we were able to obtain identification of what was clearly a fungus — “seastar stinkhorn”, or Anthurus archeri. Found in eucalypt mulch, “bright red arms arise from a white to pink hollow stem, which bursts from an egg” (Fungi Down Under, p. 94). There it was, except ours looked better than the photo in
the book. We had mulched this particular part of the garden with eucalypt chips several years before, explaining its familiar habitat.
The smell is the distinctive thing, if not appealing. It smells like rotting meat. “Yuk!” you may say. But here's the interesting part. “An olive-green slimy spore mass coats the surface of the arms and smells like rotting meat. Flies, attracted to this, distribute the spores.” Our Great god utilizes the most amazing features in His creation.
I read that this fungus is fairly common in the south-eastern part of Australia. However, even though we have been on a number of “fungi walks” and are reasonably tuned in to looking for fungi of various types, this is the first seastar stinkhorn we've seen. I was rapt and it made me reflect again on our Creator, the “Maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them”. This is the God who “remains faithful forever. He upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets prisoners free, the Lord gives sight to the blind, the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down, the Lord loves the righteous. The Lord watches over the alien and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the ways of the wicked. The Lord reigns forever, your God, O Zion, for all generations. Praise the Lord” (Ps 146:6-10). This is the God I worship.