An Alien Octopus Devil Fungus

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

Spotted on Twitter:

More on what you’re seeing:

Clathrus archeri, also known as devil's fingers, has a gelatinous egg stage from which the fruitbody arises, its four to eight reddish arms each coated with dark, foul-smelling tissue. [...] Clathrus archeri is one of the phalloid fungi (Phallales) and is related to the common stinkhorn (Phallus impudicus), a well-known woodland fungus in Britain. It similarly produces a sticky spore-bearing tissue designed to attract flies which are the agents of spore dispersal. Like other phalloids, C. archeri accumulates manganese in the egg-stage, apparently important chemically in producing the sugars and odorous substances found in the fertile tissue.

A time-lapse to haunt your dreams:

Here’s a guide to get rid of them (without having to resort to a flamethrower).