Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Search Challenge (8/27/14): What are these plants?

When I go out for a run I usually carry my phone or a camera, just in case I find something odd, peculiar, or spectacular.  It's a quick matter to grab the phone and capture the odd plant, animal, street sign, or atmospheric condition that I'd like to understand.  Then, when I get back to my computer I can look up the things I've captured and get a bit more of an inside story about where I'm running.  

This week I found a few amazing things that I'd like your help in identifying.  The Challenge is the same for all three:  What IS this?  And what can you find out about it? 

1.  I found this under a redwood tree in a lawn at one of the Google buildings.  I visited here every day for a week, and took this series of pictures over a couple of days.  It's shady here, but as you can see, it's just the lawn under the canopy of the redwood.  What ARE these things? What's the genus and species name?  

2.  Here's another thing I found sticking up out of the soil in my garden.  This is a particularly well-watered section of the garden--you can see the green beans growing in the background.  Just before I took this picture, the brown parts at the tip were covered in flies.  I know why, because it smelled terrible--a bit like rotting meat--perfect fly attractant.  Unfortunately, I only got one good picture.  I took several, but it was in a somewhat difficult to reach place, and this was the only one in good focus. It's about 5 inches long, and seemingly appeared overnight.  What IS this thing?  (And should I be worried about it?)  

 3.  While running through the Stanford Industrial Park (where HP headquarters, Varian, Xerox PARC, and a bunch of Silicon Valley research labs are located) I found the bush below covered in red berries.  Each berry is around 1 inch in diameter, and the bushes themselves are used as hedges.  It's an attractive plant, and I can see why you'd plant long stretches of this between buildings.  Oddly, I've also seen this plant grown as a tree with a trunk planted as a decorative planting along sidewalks.  And if I recall correctly, I remember there's some connection with Madrid.  What kind of bush/tree is this?  And what's the connection with Madrid? What's the genus/species name? 

As always, you can click on the picture to see the larger, more detailed version of the image.  (And no, there's no useful metadata here in the EXIF of the images.)  

If you would, please let us know HOW you figured out the answers.  What tools did you use (if any)?  What search queries worked for you?  And what sidetracks did you take (and then get out of!).  

I hope these plants are exotic enough for you.  I have to say that I was surprised by each in my searches, and I hope you find this interesting as well.  

Search on! 


  1. I didn't have time for all the challenges but was intrigued by the one that appeared in your garden. I think it is a lantern stinkhorn. I did an image search for smelly fungus and found it on the first page. It took about a minute. Here are some links with more information: According several sites, attracting insects is a way to spread their spores

  2. The third photo required no search for me, because I have one in my yard. It's the "Strawberry Tree" (Arbutus unedo), a European shrub/tree that is related to the magnificent California native tree known as "madrone" (Arbutus menziesii).

    Now to find the fungi. ...

  3. For the second image, I agree with Judith's assessment: Lysurus mokusin (Lantern stinkhorn).

    My search for [stinkhorn "pink stem"} led me to's page for this species: I was attracted, like a fly to the stinkhorn slime, to this sentence: "More photos of Lysurus mokusin, sent in by readers, can be found in the Stinkhorn Hall of Fame," which is located here: Indeed, the stinkhorns in two of the contributed photos appear very similar to yours: ... and this one from Australia:

  4. ComposeDeCompose or ComposeReCompose…
    deliquesce shaggy mane
    "become liquid, during decomposition, or by absorbing moisture from the air."

    Lysurus mokusin lantern stinkhorn
    "But as odd and repugnant as they might appear, they will do no harm to your garden and will wilt and decay within a very short period of time.
    The fruit body, which has an odor comparable to "fresh dog feces", "rotting flesh", or "sewage" when mature, is edible in its immature "egg" stage. "

    Arbutus unedo cane apple

    brandy bear
    3Dbear strawberry tree Santafé
    checked other languages

    Compost on!

  5. #1 Image Search >Coprinus comatus mushroom > Shaggy ink cap or Lawyers wig
    (detailed description from New Zealand)
    Confirmation- INaturalist > Fungi >Coprinus comatus /Shaggy Mane > provides embedded direct link to Wikipedia that states “When young it is an excellent edible mushroom provided that it is eaten soon after being collected...The species is cultivated in China as food.” Wikipedia article isn’t convincing & I would need further evidence especially if I plan to eat these.

    Calflora - search by name - no section specifically referred to as fungi and I need a name.

    Google query [coprinus comatus] Mushroom Expert has very good details in how to identify fungi. And it states “The genus Coprinus, which once held all such mushrooms, now holds only Coprinus comatus and a few similar mushrooms--and it turns out that the presence of a ring on the stem and a string-like strand of fibers inside the stem's hollow cavity (see the illustration) turn out to be better predictors of the genus Coprinus than deliquescing gills...Rings are notoriously absent when they should be present”. We would need to dissect to determine before eating.

    Genus Coprinus
    Name Coprinus comatus mushroom > Shaggy ink cap or Lawyers wig

    #2 Mushroom Expert seems a good site so searched for smelly fungi and quickly find Stinkhorns. Stinkhorns “are amazing mushrooms, notorious for popping up suddenly and unexpectedly in urban settings” as was mentioned in your comments.

    Further research just to confirm it’s the Lysurus mokusin: The Lantern Stinkhorn
    Wikipedia “its fetid odor helps it attract flies and other insects to assist in spore dispersal. The odor has been compared to "fresh dog feces",[13] "rotting flesh"[14] or sewage”. Images & comments confirm identity but should you be worried?

    “This species is considered to be edible when still in the immature "egg" stage, and is thought to be a delicacy in China. When mature, its foul odor would deter most individuals from attempting consumption. The fungus has been used medicinally in China as a remedy for ulcers.” So no worries but perhaps watch for eggs & then add to salad/stirfry.

    #3 Image Search - Close Up of ripened fruit Wikipedia states that
    “strawberry tree, occasionally cane apple) is an evergreen shrub or small tree in the family Ericaceae, native to the Mediterranean region and western Europe north to western France and Ireland. Due to its presence in southwest and northwest Ireland, it is known as either "Irish strawberry tree" or sometimes "Killarney strawberry tree”

    “The tree makes up part of the Coat of arms of Madrid (El oso y el madroño, The Bear and the Strawberry Tree) which is your Madrid reference.

    Further confirmation -I knew we had searched plants before using photographs & couldn’t initially find which site so I search SearchResearch to find previous reference which was Calphotos provides images of young unripened berries > click on details>links to several other sites. Search arbutus enedo to find a good collection of images of the Strawberry Tree very aptly named.

    1. we were time simpatico :-0 don't think I've seen that before… but you were more precise… I needed a shot or two of morning Medronhos.

  6. Good day, Dr. Russell, fellow SearchResearchers


    Downloaded first picture to take just the first part. Tried that photo with text wild mushrooms

    Edible Mushrooms There with photos looked for the one you looking for Shaggy Mane

    Your image with "shaggy mane mushroom"

    Coprinus comatus
    Shaggy Mushroom recipes and information from Mycological Society of San Francisco

    [Mushroom identification]

    For question 2.

    [fungus bad smell attract flies]
    The Amazing Kingdom Of Fungi. Stinkhorn There also searched [shaggy mane site: ]

    Shaggy Mane photos
    Shaggy Mane photos

    [stinkhorn mushrooms]
    Mushroom expert. Stinkhorns: The Phallaceae and Clathraceae

    For question 3.

    Cropped your photo to use only a small part.

    [Searched Google Image with that image] and found: Almost the same angle. There a name. Arbutus or strawberry tree.

    [Same image adding Arbutus]

    Arbutus Wikipedia

    [Madrid Madroño coat of arms]

    The Strawberry Tree and Madrid

    [Atletico Madrid madroño]
    El Oso y el Madroño
    El Oso y El Madroño, Puerta del Sol. History

    [Oso y madroño statue history]

    Oso y Madroño Statue, History. In spanish with data from Madrid Histórico.


    1. I found this under a redwood tree in a lawn at one of the Google buildings. I visited here every day for a week, and took this series of pictures over a couple of days. It's shady here, but as you can see, it's just the lawn under the canopy of the redwood. What ARE these things? What's the genus and species name?

    A: It is a fungus. Mushroom. This mushroom is unusual because it will turn black and dissolve itself in a matter of hours after being picked or depositing spores. From Wikipedia.

    Genus: Coprinus
    Species: C. comatus

    2. What IS this thing? (And should I be worried about it?)

    A: A fungus. No they won't hurt humans nor pets.

    3. What kind of bush/tree is this? And what's the connection with Madrid? What's the genus/species name?

    A. Arbutus. In North America they are called Madrones, from the Spain name Madroño (strawberry tree). Source: wikipedia

    The tree forms part of Madrid's Coat of Arms. The bear and ElMadroño are symbols of Madrid. Also part of Atletico de Madrid logo.

    If you search [oso y madroño meaning] Google says:El Oso y El Madroño. The Puerta del Sol is also the location of the most famous symbol of Madrid: a 20 ton statue of a bear eating fruits from a tree. The official name of the statue is 'El Oso y El Madroño'.

    Dr. Russell, did you try the fruit? How does they taste like?

    1. 2 minutes off - given the time differential here in Pago Pago, we are running very similar schedules… a lad can dream…
      that's what I get for falling asleep after 2 cups at Tim's…;)

      re: the taste, see the caption -
      Pliny the Elder
      Dalmatian strawberry

    2. Hi Remmij!

      Thanks for the links. They are great. It is easy to imagine when seeing the photos and reading about tree.

      I am trying to find the fruit without an image.

      [red|orange fruit rough skin AROUND(3) Madrid history]

      The Strawberry Tree (Arbutus unedo ); Ethnobotany, wood, fruits, liqueurs, Toponymy and much more .

      [define Ethnobotany]
      A: the scientific study of the traditional knowledge and customs of a people concerning plants and their medical, religious, and other uses.

    3. I remembered about some photos of Mushrooms that I have on my Google Plus. I posted one and searched for the answer. Here the Photo

      [wild orange mushrooms]

      Edible Mushrooms There, looked for a similar one. And I think this is it.
      Lobster Mushroom. What do you think?

      Searching found also this page: Mushrooms photo by color and ORANGE

  7. a feast of shrooms and firewater could be in the offing @ the GPlex… bears (including Golden) must R.S.V.P.… Saude! or Salud…
    you may need some specialized equipment to take advantage of the Strawberry Tree fruit:
    " Therefore, good Aguardente de Medronhos is not easily found in supermarkets but instead bought mostly directly from these farmers. Very few farmers have a license for distillation, but are tolerated by the authorities to keep this traditional Portuguese specialty alive.
    Aguardente de Medronhos is very popular with ordinary people, such as farmers and fishermen, and often drunk for breakfast to wake the spirits. When sweetened with honey it is called Brandymel.
    Aguardente de Medronhos is also known as Firewater to non-Portuguese speakers, and obtains this name from the hot sensation as the consumed beverage travels down the throat and is felt through the sinuses."

    see ~:30 in - process in greater detail
    Medronho tree, Arbutus unedo
    did both searchs through a combination of image search and textual descriptive terms based on what you provided.

  8. The first image appears to be one of the Inky Cap mushrooms (Genus: Coprinus). Although I wouldn't be confident about identifying a particular species -- since the keys for this genus are so long and detailed ( and ) -- I wouldn't be surprised it it turned out to be Coprinus comatus, aka shaggy ink cap, lawyer's wig, or shaggy mane.

    How I searched: In Photoshop Elements, I cropped the first and third panels of your photo, posted each on Flickr (, then had to search the source code to get an image-only jpg (Why is it now so difficult to get an image-only jpg URL on Flickr? I used to be able to simply right-click and get various sizes of image-only choices) . Then I used image search on that jpg (with the identifier "mushroom").

    For your 3rd image, I got this result:

    None of the resulting images were close to your third image, but the top row, 5th and 7th images showed a black rim, which led me to the inky caps -- -- several of which in their early stages looks like your first frame. (for example: ,, and )

    Searching for ["inky caps"] led me to the Mushroom Expert page that had a dripping-fringe photo on top:, which is ID's as coprinus_comatus (aka shaggy ink cap, lawyer's wig, or shaggy mane).

  9. PUBLISH vanished

    1 Coprinopsis atramentaria aka inky cap is what it looked like to this amateur mycologist. However

    Suggests these Coprinoid mushrooms can be very easy or very difficult to identify and same site

    Suggests Coprinus comatus Shaggy Mane is easy to ID. Genus: Coprinus Species:C. comatus

    Confirmed by California Mushrooms
    Descriptions and Photographs
    658 species
    492 descriptions
    5905 photographs

    It will dissolve itself in a few drippy black hours so cook it right away.

    2 [fungus attracts flies smell like carrion] found this

    stinkhorn fungus Phallus impudicus

    This Issue Of Wayne's Word Is Dedicated To Stinking Flowers

    This got me back to previous WWW site mykoweb/CAF and search on Stinkhorns, where 4 kinds show up
    Clathrus archeri
    Clathrus ruber
    Phallus hadriani
    Lysurus mokusin

    First 3 are not it but Lysurus mokusin looks promising: and indeed the images are maybe of your fungus.

    Scattered to clustered in lawns, gardens, nurseries, etc., occasionally on well rotted wood chips; fruiting during the warm months of the year; found sporadically in Southern California and the Central Valley; rare in the San Francisco Bay Area." and " It is recognized by a strongly ribbed pseudostipe and reddish "cap" composed of four to five furrowed, clasped arms. A related paler species, Lysurus cruciatus (=L. borealis), has a round, not ribbed pseudostipe, and at maturity, spreading, not clasped arms."

    Nothing to worry about.

    But this is still tough to sort out.

    3 I recognised this as strawberry tree an arbutus variant. I used to live on Arbutus St. The official name is Arbutus unedo
    The books say that the fruit is sweet but insipid, and the Latin name 'unedo' means 'I eat one (only)' and suggests that the fruit is not very palatable.

    Points out that strawberry tree is not native and that it is NOT Pacific madrone, madrono, madrone but that Arbutus menziesii a native is called these names.

    So there is no connection with madrone etc but there is a connection to Madrid through Strawberry Tree. For hundreds of years the city of Madrid, the Spanish one not the American, has had a bear and Strawberry Tree on its Coat of Arms.

    This was an astonishing search for me a real funguy.

    jon tU