GASTEROID or ‘stomach' FUNGI have spores encased within a protective outer layer. When they have matured, the outer 'skin’ splits open and passively releases thousands of spores mainly as a result of impact from rain drops and breezes. This process can continue over the course of many months. Although many gasteroid fungi appear morphologically similar to each other, they are not all closely related. The Poison Pig-skin Puffball, Scleroderma citrinum, for example, is more closely related to the boletes than it is to other asteroid fungi. The Giant Puffball, Calvatia gigantia, the many species of Lycoperdon and the Bird’s Nest fungi are actually more closely related to gilled cap and stem mushrooms like Agaricus campestris, for example, than they are to other gasteroid fungi.
STINKHORNS: Rather than releasing dry spores from within an enclosed package or from gills or pores, etc., stinkhorns emerge from an egg-shaped structure which is initially enclosed within a membrane. Alien-like species with ‘arms’, unfold as the fruiting bodies mature and expose spore masses that are visible on the fruiting body as a dark, viscid material called the ‘gleba'. Other stinkhorns have phallic appearing fruiting bodies with the gleba either covering the tip or spread along the sponge-like exterior. All stinkhorns make use of the odor of dead meat or rotting flesh to attract flies and other insects which do all the work of spreading their spores for them. When stinkhorns are still in the egg stage, they have no odor. In some cultures they are eaten before the egg membrane spits. The odor is most intense as the spores reach maturation, which coincides with the full development of the fruiting body.
GASTEROID FUNGI (Puffballs, Bird’s Nest Fungi)