By Carla Zanoni
Inwood — When Monique Chang went for a walk in Inwood Hill Park this weekend she was surprised to see what she thought were early Halloween decorations on Indian Road lawn.
“From a distance I thought kids planted severed fingers,” Chang, 35, said.
But as she came closer she realized that she had stumbled on a field of unusual mushrooms growing wild in the wood chips that she said looked downright phallic.
According to naturist Steve "Wildman" Brill, Chang’s description was on point. Even the mushroom’s scientific name mutinus elegans gives a nod to its virile shape while paying homage to the Roman fertility god Mutinus Titanus.
"I'll let you guess why!" Brill writes on his Web site describing the mushroom.
Because of its simple shape and smell, the fungus is also known as the "elegant stinkhorn," a typically stinky mushroom variety that grows well in wooded moist areas during the second half of summer in North America.
Brill, who gives nature tours of Inwood Hill Park that focus on identifying wild edible food, including mushrooms, said he has tasted the non-poisonous mutinus elegans, but suggests others pass up what he describes as its "slimy" and "unpleasant flavor."
"There are so many wild mushrooms that are way better that grow in Inwood, that I wouldn't recommend these," he wrote in an email. "The best I can say is that they won't kill you (although they taste so bad, if you ate them, you might wish you were dead!)"