This post is also available in: Dutch.
It’s autumn on Curacao, or spring. It depends how you look at it. The rainy season has arrived, and with the first rains all the plants grew new leaves and flowers. It is a time of plenty for all life on the island. Insects such as butterflies and bees have an abundance of nectar, birds and other animals large amounts of fruits and insects to eat. Everything revolves around breeding. Birds of prey ‘flirt’ with each other in the air, frantic nest building takes place almost everywhere. These conditions, in comparison with the seasons in temperate climates, are reminiscent of spring. Fresh and green! However, if you look at the ground then things do not add up. At various places on the island mushrooms sprout up enthusiastically. In any shape and color imaginable. Mushrooms everywhere: they emerge from the residue of dead leaves left over from the dry season, grow on tree trunks, and peek out from under a pile of rocks. In temperate climates these organisms are a sign of autumn, a sign that summer is really over and done with.
Those weird things on the side of the road
The most conspicuous mushrooms, those that often are the first to emerge after some rain, are the ones with the odd narrow tapered ‘penis’-shapes. These mushrooms are almost certainly members of the Phallus family of fungi (and for those readers that started giggling: this is the official scientific name!). Just as quickly as they came up, the mushrooms will disappear after they have spread their spores. In this species this happens by means of a kind of explosion. When the fruit-boxes in which the spores were formed ripen, they will suddenly crack open. Because of the force the spores will be ejected in all directions, and with a little wind are then distributed over large distances.
A mushroom – a fruit?
The mushroom that we see above ground is nothing but the ‘fruit’ of the organism and is only intended for reproduction. The fungus itself is hidden in the ground as a network of filaments that might grow to several meters in length.
Just a tip: there is very little known about the mushrooms or toadstools on the island. Often the ones that we encounter might look very tasty. Appearances are deceptive, so better stay away from them. Of all the mushrooms in the world most are toxic to humans. Toxicity that can cause a range of symptoms, from a skin rash, to allergic reactions and even death.