Alien Fungi: Who will be caged by this fungus?

Similar to a cage ball toy for doggies, the red cage fungus or the latticed stinkhorn has a delicate three-dimensional structure. It can grow as big as a pomelo. Despite looking like a vicious look as a trap, it doesn't cage small mammals or insects. Instead, the fungus emits a putrid stench, like rotten meat to attract flies. When flies touch the smelly slime inside the cage and fly away, they help the fungus spread spores and occupy new territories. 

The red cage fungus. /CFP

The red cage fungus. /CFP

The scientific name of the fungus is Clathrus ruber, which accurately describes its appearance. The generic name "Clathrus" means a cage, while "ruber" means red. Interestingly, the pigments that give the fungus a red color are carotenes, predominantly lycopene and beta-carotene, which are the same compounds that make tomatoes and carrots look red. 

The red cage fungus. /CFP

The red cage fungus. /CFP

The red cage fungus. /CFP

The red cage fungus. /CFP

The red cage fungus has no stem like common mushrooms. It might surprise you that the fungus initially starts off as a white ball, about the size of a golf ball. This is a feature shared by fungi in the stinkhorn family. As the ball splits open, the fruit body soon expands to become a large, cage-like red mesh, and will collapse in little more than 24 hours. 

Different growth stages of the red cage fungus. /CFP

Different growth stages of the red cage fungus. /CFP

If you live in southern Europe, you can probably find the red cage fungus in gardens and park mulches. Although the fungus is generally considered to be native to southern Europe, it has also been introduced elsewhere, possibly because of imported mulch used in gardening. 

Closeup of the red cage fungus. /CFP

Closeup of the red cage fungus. /CFP

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:

Earth tongue mushroom

Bleeding mushroom

Octopus stinkhorn: 'Octopus' in the woods

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 CFP)

(If you want to contribute and have specific expertise, please contact us at

Search Trends