If You Go Down To The Woods Today

There are times when being awake is worse than reliving that moment in the film ‘Alien’ when John Hurt leans over one of those ‘eggs’ in the hold of the alien ship and suddenly – Waaaghhh! – the thing is all over his face and doing a Linda Lovelace impersonation.

alien_Egg
‘Deep Throat’ people – ‘Deep Throat’!)

J and I had our first ‘egg’ moment three years ago – we were heaving ourselves up to a ledge in one of our local valleys when there ‘they’ were at nose level. Eggs and aliens! A terrible stench of rotting carcasses filled our nostrils along with hoards of flies trying to do the same! We had never seen anything like these weird creations of some warped, alien imagination.

Since that first close encounter of the t#rd kind we have found a number of these alien hives – some very close to our house. We have also learned a little about them – say ‘Hello!’ to Clathrus ruber aka the Lattice or Basket Stinkhorn or, as the country folk around the former Yugoslavia prefer, ‘Witch’s Heart’!

Clathrus-ruber1
Alien leaping from its egg
alien-stage2
Clathrus ruber – Lattice Stinkhorn sharing an intimate moment with John Hurt; compare with Alien above – see the family likeness?

Learning about the Stinkhorn family is laced with auto-erotic symbolism – they are of the Order Phallales and Family Phallaceae; ‘eggs’ are called volva. In my opinion they are about as erotic as a smear in a Petri dish! They are however, part of a very interesting group of fungi. Another member of the group C. archeri or Octopus Stinkhorn, is a native of Australia and New Zealand –

Clathrus-archeri
an Oz alien Clathrus archeri guarding its eggs

– examples have turned up in Turkey and spores are believed to have been transported here in the boxes and equipment of the ANZAC troops following the invasion of Gallipoli/Çanakkale in 1915. It is equally weird but lacks the putrid stench associated with the Lattice Stinker.

clath3
glistening and pulsing the ‘egg’ slowly opens –
like John Hurt, curiosity draws you closer – suddenly . . Waaaghhh!

The ‘egg’ is roughly spherical, up to 6 cm (2.4 in) in diameter, with a jelly-like interior. White or grayish in colour, it is initially smooth, but develops a network of polygonal marks on the surface prior to opening. The ‘alien’ bursts the egg open as it expands (a process that can take as little as a few hours), and takes on its new persona as a cross between a dead body and a Wiffle ball! (a plastic ball with holes in it) As the sponge-like ‘lattice’ develops a thick, foul-smelling goo called gleba covers the inner surfaces. This attracts flies and other insects which help to spread the spores. Whilst the ‘eggs’ may take days or weeks to reach ‘hatching’, the amazing fruit will last but a few hours before dissolving into a slimy smear.

clath2
Alien hosts a ‘Bring-a-Blowfly’ party

The time to see them is now . .

Alan in Okçular

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