French name: L’Anthurus d’Archer
The sun is continuing to shine and keep the air warm here in France and in doing so is bringing the most glorious autumn I think we’ve had since moving here five and half years ago.
November is a month that is usually wet, damp and can even offer the first skittering of snow across the Millevache Natural Park where we live. With the dampness and cold, it is also the month in which mushrooms traditionally appear in abundance, bursting forth from the cover of moss and leaves in the forests which surround us.
Despite being somewhat dry and warm, the mushrooms nevertheless are starting to appear, and with it has come one of the strangest I’ve seen to date.
We spotted this spooky looking fungi a couple of weeks ago, just as Halloween was approaching; its name is Devil’s Fingers.
The fungi develop first as a sort of egg, white-grey in colour, a spherical shell surrounded by a membrane and thin outer skin. Inside this ‘egg’ the reddish-brown structure of the mushroom forms. When ready, the egg bursts open and like something out of a Ridley Scott movie, the body merges; bright red tentacles which stink of rotting flesh!
When fully opened the mushroom has between 3 and 6 pointed ‘fingers’ each 5-12cm long which resemble the tentacles of a squid. The ‘fingers’ are rough in texture and are covered in olive-brown sticky spore sacs which smell of rotting flesh. This smell attracts the flies which go on to disperse the spores.
Devil’s Fingers are native to south-east Asia and Australia and were accidentally introduced into Europe early in the 1900s. The first recorded sighting in Europe was in France in 1914 where it was thought that spores were introduced in military supplies at the start of the First World War. Other spores are believed to have been brought into Europe in fleeces sent to be turned into wool.
Devil’s Fingers can be found lurking in autumn in deciduous woods and parklands under leaf or bark mulch. If you go down to the woods today, be sure to keep your eyes wide open for this alien-like fungi!
A bientôt and don’t have nightmares!