Funky fungi find a home

Naiomi Mcbeth is fascinated by the appearance of crazy looking fungi in her garden. Photo: John Borren.

One minute strange lights are creeping across the sky in a perfect line. Then strange living creatures start appearing in the backyard.

Life has taken a twist for Welcome Bay resident Naiomi Mcbeth but fortunately she has an answer to both sets of unidentified objects.

The first is the SpaceX Starlink satellites. The second is the endemic basket fungus – a relatively common occurrence in NZ.

When it comes to strange and unusual happenings in the garden, this one takes the cake.

The bizarre endemic basket fungus – a member of the stinkhorn family - has been popping up all over the place in recent weeks, including Naiomi’s garden.

“I thought ‘what is that polystyrene packing? Where did that blow in from?’ And when I went over to it I went ‘oh my God, it’s alive’.”

The bizarre fungus is mainly found in New Zealand, but also crops up at the same latitude in South America, Australia and South Africa.

It starts off as a white ball before exploding into bizarre and intricate shapes.

They are actually edible but not particularly desirable. As the name suggests they are stinky and also covered in slime.

Maori had several names for it with some identifying its funky fruits as the dung of the thunder goddess, Whatitiri.

Naiomi used to work in a plant store but just before lock-down she decided it was time to retire.

“Nah, I’ve had enough work, I’m retiring now, play around in my own garden and find fungus.”

She has been fascinated by the lines of satellites passing overhead – launched by SpaceX as part of a project to provide satellite-based internet.

And then the strange fungi started appearing in the bark garden.

“It’s so weird looking. It looks like something from outer space.

“Funny thing is I put it into bark garden seven years ago and I had never had anything like it and then all of a sudden there is about 10 lots of it all around the garden.”

The Department of Conservation confirmed the identity of the fungus as the endemic basket fungus, adding that it is quite common.

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