devils finger

Devil’s Fingers Fungus and a Wartime Connection to the New Forest

Did you know that there’s a possible wartime connection to these photos shown below?

Above you can see in a clockwise direction from the right.

  • Devil’s Finger fungus (aka Octopus Stinkhorn)
  • The Balmer Lawn Hotel in Brockenhurst, New Forest
  • Devil’s Finger fungus again
  • A RAF Hawker Typhoon at Holmsley South (a New Forest WW2 airfield)

So what is it that connects these things?

Devil’s Fingers (Octopus Stinkhorn) is a fungus found in the New Forest, but it shouldn’t be here. It’s is an alien species (and alien looking too) from the Southern Hemisphere that should not be growing in Hampshire.

Oh… and it smells like rotten flesh (apparently).

Whilst I have never smelt rotting flesh, I can vouch for how bad Devil’s Finger fungi smells. It really does stink, and gives off a very pungent aroma.

So how Devil’s Fingers get 11,000 miles or so from places like Australia and New Zealand to here in the New Forest?

Well, there’s a popular theory which might help to explain why we see this alien fungi on local heathland that goes like this: it’s possible that it was introduced to the New Forest with various war supplies, or perhaps wool, during the First World War.

In WW1, Balmer Lawn Hotel in Brockenhurst was a military hospital for New Zealand troops. Some people theorise that the spores of the Octopus Stinkhorn aka Devil’s Fingers was transported to the New Forest in the bedding and clothing of the New Zealanders.

Devil’s Fingers can also be found clustered near Second World War military sites in the New Forest. For example, I’ve seen it growing on the New Forest airfields including RAF Beaulieu.

Both Australian and New Zealand pilots flew from the New Forest airfields during WW2, so perhaps, as like the First World War theory, the spores came to Hampshire with them.

Does the New Forest’s military history mean we now have this alien species…?

It’s quite possible.

Either way, it’s a great theory, and one that I really like.

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