Mystery Root Bulbs?

Asked July 17, 2019, 8:56 PM EDT

Hello there- I dug up some white bulbs or roots of some sort. There were a lot of them but all in one small 2’ x 2’ area, and they are the texture of a potato. No particular smell to them. I’m the only one who has planted anything there in the last 20 years, and I can’t think of anything planted there that they may have come from.

Clackamas County Oregon

3 Responses

The objects in the photo are probably the immature fruiting bodies of a kind of fungus Phallus impudicus, known colloquially as the common stinkhorn, is a widespread fungus recognizable for its foul odor and its phallic shape when mature. It is a common mushroom in Europe and North America, where it occurs in habitats rich in wood debris such as forests and mulched gardens. It appears from summer to late autumn. The fruiting structure is tall and white with a slimy, dark olive colored conical head. Known as the gleba, this material contains the spores, and is transported by insects which are attracted by the odor—described as resembling carrion. Despite its foul smell, it is not poisonous.

Sometimes called the witch's egg, the immature stinkhorn is whitish or pinkish, egg-shaped, and typically 1.6 to 2.4 in by 1.2 to 2.0 in. On the outside is a thick whitish volva, also known as the peridium, covering the olive-colored gelatinous gleba. It is the latter that contains the spores and later stinks and attracts the flies; within this layer is a green layer which will become the 'head' of the expanded fruit body; and inside this is a white structure called the receptaculum (the stalk when expanded), that is hard, but has an airy structure like a sponge. The eggs become fully grown stinkhorns very rapidly, over a day or two. The mature stinkhorn is 3.9 to 11.8 in tall and 1.6 to 2.0 in in diameter, topped with a conical cap 0.8 to 1.6 in high that is covered with the greenish-brown slimy gleba. In older fungi the slime is eventually removed, exposing a bare yellowish pitted and ridged (reticulate) surface. This has a passing resemblance to the common morel (Morchella esculenta), for which it is sometimes mistaken.

Again, stinkhorns are not poisonous or harmful to plants or people. Eventually, the stinkhorns wither away and disappear. Individuals can rake up and discard the fungi if their appearance or smell is bothersome.

Good luck and happy gardening.

I've had a collegue recommend potting up a few of the larger specimens as they indeed may be flower bulbs and not a fungus as I had surmised. Later after it has flowered send us a picture for a positive ID.

Cool, thank you so much for the information! Now I’m really curious about what they may be. We’ll see if we can get something to grow from them.