I have written about our rat problem before, so when Mark came in the house and announced, "There's a dead rat somewhere in the yard, and I'm gonna puke!", I wasn't surprised. I was especially not surprised because two doors down from me is an abandoned, foreclosed home that the bank just cleared of debris, denying the neighborhood rats of easy lodging. So I grabbed Chandler, who considers the smell of rat to be a delicious and rare treat, and went out front to search for the carcass. On our first pass, I couldn't smell or find anything. It was when we came back inside the gate that Chandler made a dash towards some leaves and shrubbery, "Thank you boy, I'll take it from here". So with a cookie and a pat on the head I dismissed Chandler from his duties, and continued the search on my own. I got down on my hands and knees to inspect the area that Chandler had been interested in. There was a definite stench, and all around me flies were buzzing and landing, a surefire sign of rat death. My search yielded no dead rat, but while I was on my knees, I came across one of the weirdest things I have ever seen growing out of the ground. All I could think of was movies like 'The Blob', or 'Invasion of the Pod People'. It was like a large red Whiffle Ball with black dimples where the holes should be. I immediately took photos, and then went into the house to research the thing on the internet.So what was it that I found? According to the web site 'Mushroom Expert' it is called 'Clathrus Crispus', which I think might be Latin for crispy rat. Whatever it means, this is what 'Mushroom Expert' has to say about the thing.
"Clathrus crispus appears with some frequency in Florida and along the Gulf Coast, to judge from e-mails I receive. It is an outlandish and exotic looking stinkhorn reminiscent of an orange "Wiffle football"--except for the God-awful stench that results from the slimy brown goo that covers the inside of the lattice. The method stinkhorns use to disperse spores is quite ingenious, though a little disgusting to human sensibilities. The foul-smelling slime is calculated to attract flies and other insects, who land on the slime and gobble it up. Little do the insects know that they have been duped into covering their little insect feet with stinkhorn spores, and have ingested spores into their digestive tracts! Later, these spores are dispersed by the unwitting insects, and the stinkhorn life-cycle continues elsewhere."
There you go, dead rat found, and another great reason to move to Florida.