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Found a mushroom?

Hello! I live in south-eastern North Carolina and I was in my front garden getting leaves out of the mulch when I noticed these weird white balls. Any clue what they might be? Maybe an early bloom of something?

Pattie, North Carolina - February 25, 2021

Curator Response

Whenever we have a question that requires a fungi expert, we ask Bob Cummings, Ph.D., who teaches in the Botany Department at Santa Barbara City College in the Biological Sciences. Here's what he had to say:

"Pretty sure those are stinkhorn 'eggs.' Keep watching, and if I'm right, they will open up and a stinkhorn stalk with a slimy dark top covered with spores will emerge. Flies attracted to the smell will disperse the spores.

It may be a Lattice Stinkhorn, Clathrus ruber. This species, once rare, has been appearing regularly here on the West Coast for a couple of years now. It is probably of tropical origin and is likely spread by way of plant nursery stock."

You can check out an earlier question about the Lattice Stinkhorn here. There are some cool photos of the structure that emerged.

Let us know if that's what you see, or if something else develops!