• A witch's heart

    A witch's heart

    The latticed stinkhorn (Clathrus ruber) is a strange looking fungus that is shrouded in a veil of mystery, fear and abhorrence. It was first described by the pioneering Flemish doctor and botanist Charles de l’Ecluse in the 16th century. Its original form is egg shaped with white color and as the days pass, it opens wide and turns into a red slimy "cage". The fruit body has a strongly repulsive smell resembling rotten meat and attracting green flies, which then carry the seeds of the fungus. This unpleasant smell and bizarre shape have contributed to numerous popular beliefs about the latticed stinkhorn. In the Balkans they call it "witch's heart” and in Iberia "witch's egg", while in Asian markets it is called "Devil's egg". The great greek mycologist Demetrios Celtemlidis says that, in Greek folk tradition, it was considered bad luck and that it causes or cures cancer. It is considered edible at a young age but the red fruit is poisonous causing severe stomach pain, violent spasms and deep coma. The latticed stinkhorn is found mainly in southern Europe (the photo is from Ekali in Attica), while over the years it has been introduced all over the planet, from North America to Australia. Maybe the witches who left Europe took it with them.

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