Beauty at first glance

We found this growing in our garden earlier in the year and had no idea what it was. With a little research I have discovered it is a Clathrus pusillus, or Red Cage Fungus as it’s often called.

Isn’t it beautiful? The colours were so vivid and it seemed so delicate. I was sad to realise that at the end of the day, it had shrivelled and disintegrated into a pulpy mess, covered in ants and flies.

Now that I have finally got around to finding out what it was, I know that what it did was exactly what it should have done.

This particular fungus gives off a dead, rotting meat smell (I didn’t notice an odour but then, I didn’t exactly go sticking my nose in it either) which attracts flies and ants, which then feed on it and do their part to deliver the spores to other parts of the garden.

Apparently they are also potentially poisonous if ingested and some animals have died as a result of eating them.

But I can’t get past how beautiful it was. Popping up in the midst of all the brown leaves and dirt sat this amazing, vibrant creature. As beautiful for it’s strangeness as anything else.

It was a reminder that ‘all that glitters is not gold”.

How easy it still is, at the age of 40, to be fooled by someone’s or something’s outward appearance.

To be taken in by beauty only to discover too late the foul stench of decay.



14 thoughts on “Beauty at first glance

  1. Love that last line, Susannah. LOL! – Ahh we’ve all been there. What an interesting thing that is, though I must say I’m glad not all plants decided to adopt the stick and attract policy.


  2. Similar to those vibrant amphibians found in tropical places–they’re poisonous, but their colors are bright because it’s a warning not to come too close.

    What a girl you are for researching the plant. I run across plants, butterflies, birds, etc that I have not seen before and I’ll tell myself I should look it up, but I get lazy. Well, sometimes I do Google it. 🙂

    Great last line!


    • Yes, exactly like that 🙂

      As my daughter pointed out in a previous comment, it took me awhile to look it up!

      Glad you like the last line – I feel like I should use it in my MS somehow 😉


    • Thanks Normandie 🙂 Yes, it is for me too now….just incidentally, I think they also belong to the type of fungus affectionately termed ‘stinkhorn’…a nice bit of word imagery to go with the image 🙂


  3. What a beautiful fungus! I gasped when I saw the picture (beautiful), then was all ‘ew and yuck’ when I read what it was. But it is beautiful and a little sci-fi looking. What surprises we see when we take the time to look closely. And just because someone is showing a glittering smile doesn’t mean they won’t bite.


  4. May I take another angle at it? I can think of a few other living things that burst onto the scene in adorable pink cuteness and bloom in the glorious beauty of youth, only to later mature and digress into foul odors and a less appealing appearance. There is value even in excrement and decay to the earth’s ecosystem. There is some value to all living things, even if only as eventual compost. 😉


    • LOL so true, Vaughn! Love the parallel! Although, I wasn’t saying it was of no value, only that one needed to be careful and not taken in by it’s appearance….the ants and flies loved it, so it is attractive to someone in it’s decomposing state, just like the other living things you mentioned 🙂


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