In the fall there is a certain odor in the woods at Camp Salmen. It is detectable only here and there, now and again. I’ve never found it particularly pleasant since it reminds me of dirty socks. My nose comes up with flavor note names like “pukey” or “sickly-sweet.” You can catch whiffs of it around rotting leaf litter in humid areas and lingers in the air until spring.
A fellow employee at the park has also known this same smell for years. Since he’s a longtime outdoorsman it has a completely different set of connotations to him - brisk autumn weather and the promise of the hunt. He likes it so much it gives him a charge.
Until recently, neither one of us knew exactly what the source of this smell was and didn’t give it much thought but I’ve begun to look for its source in earnest in areas where the smell is strongest. I have yet to see any flowers, fruits or visible fungus that accounts for it.
LSU mycologist (fungus scientist) Meredith Blackwell advises it is probably a type of stinkhorn mushroom. There are apparently two types in the park. We have plenty of the version called Stinkhorn clathracethat has a very strong, musty odor. Apparently I’m looking for the type called Stinkhorn phallace which I’ve yet to give a positive I.D. to with sight and smell. On-line descriptions show it to be a grotesque, repulsive organism only capable of attracting flies.
It has become an obsession to find one of these. I’m not sure what I’ll do when one finally turns up but I know for sure I won’t be eating it.