Phallus indusiatus, also known by its numerous common names such as the Bamboo Fungus, Bridal Veil Fungus, Veiled Lady, or the Queen of the Mushrooms, is a fascinating and unique species of stinkhorn fungus. This edible and medicinal mushroom can be found in tropical and subtropical regions of southern Asia, Africa, the Americas, Australia, and is characterized by its distinctive conical cap from which a net-like white veil(indusium) hangs down to cover its slender stalk.[i]
This species was first described in 1798 by the French botanist Étienne Pierre Ventenat in Suriname under the name Phallus indusiatus and appeared under the same name in Christiaan Hendrik Persoon’s 1801 publication “Synopsis Methodica Fungorum”. Soon after in 1809 another French botanist, Nicaise Auguste Desvaux noticed that specimens of Phallus indusiatus existed with and without the characteristic indusium, reclassified specimens with an indusium under the genus Dictyophora. As such Dictyophora indusiata was used by many subsequent authors and in older mycological literature it is still described under this name. However, 20th-century research showed that specimens with and without an indusium were evolutionarily similar, hence, the members of the genus Dictyophora were merged back into Phallus. Thus, the currently accepted scientific name of this species is P. indusiatus, but readers should be aware of its common synonyms such as Dictyophora indusiata, and Hymenophallus indusiatus.
The etymology of this specie’s name is quite interesting. The genus name “Phallus” dates back to Carl Linnaeus and is derived from the Greek word “phallos,” which means “penis”, referring to the phallic shape of the fruiting body. The specific epithet “indusiatus” is derived from the Latin word “indusium,” which means “undergarment”, “cloak”, or “skirt”. This refers to the distinctive “veil” that hangs from the cap of the mushroom, representing a remnant of the veil that originally covered the immature fruiting body. Thus, the name “Phallus indusiatus” highlights the characteristic “veil” that distinguishes this species from other members of the genus Phallus.
Identification and Description[ii]
Immature Fruiting Body: P. indusiatus starts out inside an egg-shaped immature form called a “volva.” This spherical or oval structure measures about 2-6 cm in diameter and is whitish, brownish, or pinkish in color. Inside the volva, a miniature form of the adult mushroom is tightly packed and encased in a gelatinous membrane. As the fruiting body grows and matures inside the volva it expands and eventually breaks open the “wall” of the volva, called the peridium. This allows the mature fruiting body to erupt and grow upwards while leaving behind the distinctive “veil” that hangs from the cap.
Mature Fruiting Body: As mentioned, the mature fruiting body emerges by splitting the peridium (outer wall) of the volva. The mature fruiting body consists of a cap with its distinctive net-like indusium (veil) and a tall, slender stalk.
- Cap: The cap of this species is conical or bell-shaped, and measures approximately 4cm in height and width. It has a raised honeycomb/reticulate surface pattern and a perforation at its apex. The surface of the cap is white to light brown, however, it is often invisible as the surface is covered by a thick layer of gelatinous, olive-brown spore slime called the gleba. In older specimens, this gelatinous layer may be absent as insects to whose legs it adheres as a means of spore dissemination may have carried it all away.
- Veil/Indusium: The indusium is the characteristic white to pinkish lace-like “skirt” that represents a remnant of the immature veil. It extends from the bottom rim of the head and descends almost to the ground. The indusium is short-lived, as such specimens of P. indusiatus may be seen lacking the characteristic veil.
- Stalk: The stalk of P. indusiatus is cylindric, slender, and long, measuring up to 25 cm in height and 2cm in width. It is hollow, finely pocketed, and whitish in color.
Spores: The spores measure 3-4 by 1.5–2 μm. They are smooth, ellipsoid or slightly curved, and translucent with thin walls. They are hyaline in potassium hydroxide (KOH).
Spore Print: The yellowish spores of this species are embedded in the olive-brown spore slime. As such it is not possible to produce a conventional spore print.
Odor: This species has an unpleasant or strongly sweet smell. Although it is worth mentioning that the distinctively strong smell of stinkhorns can be absent in very immature and in very old specimens. As such, it is not necessary to always encounters a strong smell when tracking stinkhorns.
Edibility: This species is an edible mushroom and is considered a delicacy in many parts of the world. It is commonly dried and used in Asian cuisine, particularly in Chinese, Japanese, and Korean dishes, where it is prized for its unique flavor and texture.
Habitat: Phallus indusiatus is a saprophytic fungus that grows on decaying organic matter. It can be found growing alone or in clusters near moist rotting wood, plant debris, and animal dung in forests and in disturbed areas such as ditches, paths, gardens, and fields. It may also be found in urban settings. In Asia it is frequently found in the warm and humid environment of bamboo groves, hence the common name “Bamboo Fungus” or “Bamboo Pith.”
Range: This species is distributed mainly in tropical and subtropical regions. It can be found throughout Africa, South and Central America, Mexico, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, India, Southern China, Japan, Taiwan, and Australia
Fruiting Season: Both immature and mature forms of this species can be found throughout the year.
There are several species of stinkhorn fungi that resemble Phallus indusiatus and can be confused with it, particularly when the mushroom is in its immature or “egg” stage. Some of the most common look-alikes include:
- Phallus moelleri: this species has a brownish volva.
- Phallus echinovolvatus: this species has a spiny white volva.
- Phallus squamulosus: this species has a scaly white volva.
- Phallus purpurascens: this species has a large, tightly-pocketed cap and a purplish volva.
- Phallus denigricans: this species is small (~10cm high), with a constricted cap and a white volva.
- Phallus aureolatus: this species has a wrinkled, rather than a pocketed cap, and a pink volva.
- Phallus merulinus: this species has a wrinkled, rather than a pocketed cap.
- Phallus atrovolvatus: this species has a nearly black volva.
- Phallus multicolor: this species has a yellow skirt.
- Phallus hadriani: this species violet-colored volva and does not have a veil.
- Phallus cinnabarinus: this species has an orange indusium and cap.
- Phallus duplicatus: this species has a very short fruiting body and veil.
- Phallus luteus: this species has a bright yellow indusium instead of white.
- Mutinus caninus: this species is smaller and has an orange rather than white cap surface under the gleba.
Phallus indusiatus Cultivation[iv]
Phallus indusiatus is a highly valued mushroom in some cultures, and its cultivation even on a commercial scale has become increasingly popular in recent decades. It can be cultivated under controlled conditions using a variety of substrates.
One of the reasons for its rise in popularity is that it can be grown on agricultural waste such as bamboo leaves and stems, sawdust, rice straw, corn cobs, and soybean pods or stems covered with a thin layer of non-sterilized soil. The optimal temperature for growth is around 24-28°C (75-82°F) with a relative humidity of 85-95%. Under highly humid conditions and good air circulation with or without light fruiting bodies will appear within 6-12 days and can be harvested.
Phallus indusiatus has a long history of use in traditional medicine, particularly in China, Japan, and other parts of Asia. Modern chemical and pharmacological investigations into this species have shown that it contains several bioactive compounds that may have a variety of medicinal properties.
- Antioxidant effect: compounds derived from Phallus indusiatus have been shown to have antioxidant properties, which may help to protect cells and tissues from damage caused by free radicals and oxidative stress.
- Neuroprotective effect: other compounds found in this species in addition to preventing oxidative damage to neurons have been shown to mitigate the cellular chemosensory dysfunction found in neurodegenerative disorders.
- Anti-cancer effect: Some studies have suggested that extracts of Phallus indusiatus may have anti-cancer properties, potentially due to their ability to inhibit the growth of tumor cells and promote cell death.
- Immunomodulatory effect: Phallus indusiatus contains polysaccharides and other compounds that are thought to have both immunostimulatory as well as general anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive effects.
- Antibacterial effect: Phallus indusiatus is believed to contain bioactive compounds that are believed to disrupt the cell walls of bacteria, preventing their growth and replication.
- stimulate the immune system and enhance the body’s ability to fight infections and diseases.
There is an abundance of scientific literature related to various other beneficial effects of this species. However, more research is needed to fully understand the exact medicinal properties of Phallus indusiatus and its active compounds. It is important to consult with healthcare professionals before using this or other natural remedies for medicinal purposes.
Phallus indusiatus Safety[vii]
A word of caution regarding the consumption of Phallus indusiatus. As mentioned, the immature and mature forms of this mushroom are choice edibles in certain cultures.
However, it is important to note that consuming immature or improperly cooked mushrooms can be dangerous, as some species contain toxic compounds that can only be destroyed by proper cooking. Furthermore, ground-growing mushrooms are known to accumulate heavy metals from the environment, particularly cadmium, and lead, which can be harmful to human health. As such, is it important to exercise caution when collecting and consuming mushrooms, and to avoid consumption of any specimens you are uncertain about the identification of.
[i] First Nature. Phallus indusiatus Vent. – Bridal Veil Stinkhorn.
[iii] Kuo, M. (2022, March). Phallus indusiatus.
[iv] Phallus indusiatus: The Ultimate Mushroom Guide.
[v] Habtemariam S. (2019). The Chemistry, Pharmacology and Therapeutic Potential of the Edible Mushroom Dictyophora indusiata (Vent ex. Pers.) Fischer (Synn. Phallus indusiatus). Biomedicines, 7(4), 98.
[vi] Mazumder, M., Roy, S., & Sarkar, A. K. (2022). Pharmacological and therapeutic value of bamboo mushroom Phallus indusiatus (Agaricomycetes). Italian Journal of Mycology, 51(1), 47–57.
[vii] Habtemariam S. (2019). The Chemistry, Pharmacology and Therapeutic Potential of the Edible Mushroom Dictyophora indusiata (Vent ex. Pers.) Fischer (Synn. Phallus indusiatus). Biomedicines, 7(4), 98.