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  • Photo of puapuatai fungus on a 90c NZ stamp from 2004.
    Rights: Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research Published 18 November 2018 Size: 1.1 MB Referencing Hub media

    Looks pretty, smells awful! This bright red fungus looks like a flower or maybe a starfish? It is found on the ground in Tāne-mahuta and probably was not eaten often. When fully formed, the red arms of puapuatai are covered at their base by a dark-coloured slime that smells like rotten meat – this is one of the stinkhorn fungi. The slime attracts flies that feed on it and so spread the spores. It is likely that puapuatai was only eaten in its young egg-like stage before the egg hatches and the smelly red arms expand.

    Today, puapuatai is not common, but a related red stinkhorn fungus has become common on mulch in home and public gardens. This also has red arms and a bad smell. It is not native to Aotearoa, however, and is probably not edible.

    Why do you think the fruitbody of this fungus, the puapuatai, is red and has long petals or arms?

    IMAGE: A photo of puapuatai on a 90c stamp from 2004. Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research.

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