This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V22", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
In your December number is a notice of two fungi, by Mrs. D. W., of Summerville, S. C, which, from her description, it is not difficult to identify. The first is undoubtedly Clathnes columnatus, not at all uncommon in cultivated lands in Winter. It grows just under the ground, and when it has attained its full growth in that stage, is about the size and shape of a hen's egg, and of a dirty white color. On cutting it open the ball discloses a jelly-like bag, in which is seen the scarlet fungus, very much compressed. As the plant matures, which would be in a day or two more, the sac or volva is ruptured, and the scarlet fungus expands or grows upwards to about two to three inches high, the sac remains in the ground. It is then a three-columned arch - the columns of bright scarlet, shading off to white where it remains in | the sac. On the under side of this arch is an olive colored mucus, from which proceeds the fetid stench. Flesh flies devour this fetid mucus greedity. Another nearly related fungus is Phallus, which perhaps is even more decided in its odoriferous qualities than its cousin Clathnes. The genus Phallus, comprises several species, and grows up also from a jelly sac or volva, in a single straight column from six to eight inches high, some red, others white or salmon color, and capped by an olive-colored mucus.
This whole family of Clathnes and Phallus is known in the vernacular as "Devil's breath," which name feebly expresses their peculiar gifts. The other thing mentioned by Mrs. D. W. as growing in clusters, with caps like "bells pendant," is probably Coprinus cematus. We have several species of Coprinus, but this is the largest and prettiest. I have seen them eight to ten inches high, with their fawn colored, bell-shaped caps four to five inches long. Like all others of this genus, it begins soon to deliquesce after sun rise, and in a few hours there is nothing left of the caps but a few blackened shreds remaining attached to the top of the stem.