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Biology

Fungi are neither plants nor animals but belong to their own kingdom. They are unable to produce their own food through the process of photosynthesis, as plants do; instead, they acquire nutrients from living or dead plants, animals, or other fungi, as animals do. In many larger fungi (lichens excepted) the only visible parts are the fruit bodies, which arise from a largely unseen network of threads called 'hyphae'. These hyphae permeate the fungus's food source, which may be soil, leaf litter, rotten wood, dung, and so on, depending on the species (3). The fruit bodies of the stinkhorn may grow solitarily or in groups, and are present from July to November (2). The young fruit bodies are edible, and are said to taste of peas (3); they can be eaten fried and are treated as a delicacy in Germany. The mysterious appearance of these 'eggs' led to the widespread belief that they were witches eggs or eggs of the Devil (2). Stinkhorns have been used in love potions and aphrodisiacs because of their phallic appearance, and to treat epilepsy, gout and rheumatism in central Europe. Some birds, snails and flies eat the mucous produced by the cap. Stinkhorn spores have been found in fly and bird dung; spores have been known to germinate inside flies, and the hyphae of the fungus grow outwards from the dead body of the fly (2).

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