A bizarre fungus that ‘looks like a hatching alien’ and smells like rotten fish could be spreading around the UK.
The rare Devil’s fingers or Octopus Stinkhorn (Clathus archeri) was spotted at RHS Garden Rosemoor, in North Devon, last week.
The specimen has since died but gardeners are expecting another one to appear soon.
The mushrooms have also been spotted in Cornwall, Suffolk and Surrey over the years.
The fungi, which emerge from a “suberumpent” egg, have been likened to an alien creature being born.
The red fingers on the growths also smell like rotten fish when they mature.
The fungi were brought to the UK from Australia and New Zealand in 1914.
The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) confirmed different fungi were popping up all over Britain as the damp summer followed by the wet autumn weather created perfect conditions for them to “fruit”.
Gardeners at the RHS Gardens and Partner Gardens across the UK reported seeing unusual species, giant specimens and proliferations of fairy rings and the red and white-spotted toadstools or fly agaric (Amanita muscaria).
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Other sightings at RHS Garden Wisley, in Surrey, included Earthstars, which release a puff of spores when pressed, fungi that resemble tiny egg-filled bird's nests, a puffball mushroom bigger than a human head and the spooky Dead Man’s Fingers (Xylaria polymorpha).
Guy Barter, Chief Horticulturist, Royal Horticultural Society, said: “We have a visual feast of funghi across our gardens at the moment.”
Mr Barter added: “Fairy rings are annoying on lawns, but for the most part fungi are beneficial to gardeners. They break down organic matter in the soil and elsewhere, turning it into plant food.
“They also feed a host of microbes which are important for biodiversity. Some are associated with plant roots and in exchange for sugars with which to grow, can protect roots from attack by harmful organisms and may supply the roots with water and nutrients in times of shortage.”
Most of the fungi are harmless but gardeners should watch out for the poisonous honey fungus that attacks and kills the roots of many plants and is very hard to eradicate.