The aliens are here

November 18, 2015 • 3:07 pm

by Matthew Cobb

This video is ABSOLUTELY REAL.

It is a stop motion video of a very weird fungus, Clathrus archeri, which is known as Devil’s Fingers. It was filmed in the UK and posted on YouTube by jwentomologist. According to Kew Gardens:

Clathrus archeri is native to Australia and New Zealand, and has been introduced elsewhere. It is now present in parts of Europe, where it was first recorded in 1914 in France, apparently introduced with military supplies at the start of the First World War. It is also found in North America, especially in California, where it was first reported in 1982 and considered to have been introduced with exotic plants.

It was first found in Britain at Penzance in Cornwall and later was found to be established in parts of Sussex. Since then it has been found in Bedfordshire, Hampshire, Kent, Suffolk, Surrey, and the Channel Islands, and is apparently slowly expanding its distribution.

The genus Clathrus differs from Phallus in having either a lattice-like fruitbody or tentacle-like arms rather than a single stem on which the gleba (fertile tissue) is produced. Clathrus species are commonly known as ‘cage fungi’, as many of them are lattice-like in form and lack free arms.

Clathrus archeri is a distinctive fungus, developing from a gelatinous egg stage, and almost squid-like in form, with a short stalk-like base and reddish spore-bearing arms.

The egg-stage is ovoid in shape and 4 – 6 cm high by 2 – 4 cm wide. The surface is whitish and soon becomes marked with furrows which outline the arms. The endoperidium (inner layer of fruitbody wall) is greenish-brown and gelatinous. The gleba (spore-bearing tissue) is olive-brown, blackish at maturity, mucilaginous (sticky), and borne on the inner face of the arms. The receptacle has a short, hollow stem 3 – 6 cm high and 1 – 3 cm wide and is pale below and pinkish above. It has four to eight slender, pointed, chambered, pink to reddish arms each 5 – 10 cm long. These are joined at the tip at first, but soon break free, spreading and drooping. The spore mass is olive-brown.

Anyone who’s come across one of these things in the wild, chip in below. I still think it looks like an alien. Mind you, what would I know? What do aliens look like? How would we know? What is ‘knowing” when it comes to aliens. etc etc etc.

24 thoughts on “The aliens are here

  1. I didn’t meet this one, but I remember looking for a shady picnic place during a very hot day on Sark, Channel Islands. We found a nice one, under a small tree. Unfortunately a totally unbearable smell floated around, and I discovered the culprit, Clathrus ruber, looking like a strange orange basket – less octopoid, but as good an alien as its cousin C. archeri. We had to eat our sandwiches under a ruthless sun.

  2. When I first saw one of those I was creeped out. It looked so different from any other fungus I (and my mom) had seen before.
    And I remember hitting the library at once to find out more. That was way before the internet about 1975.

  3. Creepy indeed; but interesting. I have to say that my main interest in fungi is whether or not they are edible. Anyone got any ideas about this one?

    Of course, one answer to the above is ‘All fungi are edible. But you can eat some of them just the once’.

    1. Also from Wikipedia about this species:

      The Octopus Stinkhorn is edible, but its taste is extremely foul. The eggs of this fungus taste and smell like radish and are the only edible stage. It should only be eaten in a wilderness survival circumstance when no other food is available. In other cases, it is considered inedible.

  4. Looks to me like it’s probably got a foul smell to it and depends on flies for spore dispersal. I’ve heard that some stinkhorn fungi are, “edible”, but there’s a lot of things that are, “edible” that you wouldn’t want to eat!

  5. I recall seeing these already in the late Seventies in Germany. In German they are referred to as the cuttlefish mushroom

  6. I don’t know what an alien is either, but I’ve got $5 that says that H.R. Giger saw one of these at some point before 1979…

  7. ‘Alien’ is an appropriate term, it brings to mind H R Giger’s horrific creations for the eponymous movie.

    ‘Native to Oz and Enzed’ – well, I’ve never seen it, for which I count myself fortunate. The shock could spoil a nice afternoon walk.

    G*d must have been in full Cthulhu mode when he created this thing.


  8. I’m a life-long sci-fi nerd, but even I’ve got to admit that most “aliens” seem far more normal than a ton of real life on Earth.

    1. That’s probably because the aliens were imagined by humans, whereas terrestrial organisms were imagined by Cthulhu. Err, G*d. Evolution. Whatever…



  9. Reminds me of an old Ray Bradbury short story, Come into my Cellar, in which children have been buying mail order mushroom kits “Raise them in your cellar for big profit”. Spoiler alert! Turns out to be a clever alien invasion.

  10. Showed this video to the wife, and she totally freaked out. “Don’t _ever_ send me another link to that site!”

    Showed to a friend, and he said, “That’s what Personal Flamethrowers are for.”

    I’d say it’s probably a whole lot less frightening seen without the time-lapse photography. 🙂

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