Alien fungi: 'Octopus' in the woods

You might have seen octopuses in the sea, on the market or on your plate, but have you ever seen an octopus in the woods? Octopus stinkhorn, or devil's fingers, has a great resemblance to octopuses. It often has three to eight slender red arms like the tentacles of an octopus or human fingers. 

Octopuses in the market (upper) and two octopus stinkhorns (lower). /Getty

Octopuses in the market (upper) and two octopus stinkhorns (lower). /Getty

Unlike most fungi that sprout directly from the earth, the octopus stinkhorn emerges from an egg, usually around decaying wood chips or old stumps. When it turns mature, its arms will grow out of the egg on a short white stalk. 

The fruiting body of the octopus stinkhorn grows from an egg. /Getty

The fruiting body of the octopus stinkhorn grows from an egg. /Getty

The arms are covered in brownish slime with a smell of rotten flesh. The disgusting smell might turn us away, but act as an invitation to flies and insects. When flies land on its arms, they can carry its spores contained in the slime off and spread to other places.

An octopus stinkhorn. /Getty

An octopus stinkhorn. /Getty

Despite the putrid smell and the scary look, the octopus stinkhorn is not known to be poisonous to humans and is even edible in the egg stage. You might not want to try it anyway. Native to New Zealand and Australia, the octopus stinkhorn can be found globally.

About 'Alien Fungi'

What is the most ancient land-based life after bacteria? Fungi! An industrious decomposer in the natural world, fungi have existed for almost a billion years, at least 500 million years older than the first land plants. In the series "Alien Fungi," CGTN explores some peculiar-looking fungi with alien features and observes how they enjoy their eternal, cryptic lives on damp floors, decaying wood and hidden areas.

Read more:

Turkey tail mushrooms: The medicinal 'swirling clouds'

Common puffball: The pear-shaped fungi that release gas

Stag's horn fungus

Dead man's fingers

Porcelain fungi: Glistening translucent beauties

Cup fungi: The little cups

Ink caps: The mushrooms with dripping ink

Coral mushroom: The corals of the land

Do you dare to eat these violet mushrooms?

Death cap: The deadly fungi with a harmless look

Fly agaric: The mushroom that inspired 'Alice in Wonderland' creators

Bioluminescent fungi: The mushrooms that glow in the dark

Bridal veil stinkhorn: A girlish mushroom that loves to wear 'skirt'

Bird's nest fungi: Dandelion-like drifting life

Barometer Earthstar: The fallen star praying for moisture

(All images via Getty)

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