When lockdown ended, giving us freedom to move and reconnect with family, I went to see my daughter who lives on a small lifestyle block about half an hour from us. She excitedly showed me these aliens that had popped up in the grass outside their house.
When she first saw it, she thought an animal had met it’s end on the spot. From standing height, it looked like spots of clotted blood in the grass about the diameter of a tea cup.
Getting down on your knees though reveals not a dead creature but an alien looking fungal growth.
It turns out to be an anemone stinkhorn, aseroe rubra also known as sea anemone fungus or starfish fungus and is a fairly common sight in New Zealand in autumn.
This description comes from the T.E.R.R.A.I.N. website.
It begins as a partly buried whitish egg-shaped structure 3 cm in diameter, which bursts open as a hollow white stalk with reddish arms erupts and grows to a height of 10 cm. It matures into a star-shaped structure with six to ten arms up to 3.5 cm long radiating from the central area. These arms are bifid (deeply divided into two limbs). The top of the fungus is covered with dark olive-brown slime or gleba, which smells of rotting meat.
Its spores are this slime which smells of fæces or carrion and it is this odour that attracts flies, which spread the spores.
There is a cup-shaped volva (cuplike structure) at the base that is the remnants of the original egg.
Our specimens didn’t smell for some reason. Maybe that comes later. Whatever the case, the amenome stinkhorn is just another example of the wonder of nature.