‘Alien’ species are organisms that have been transported from one part of the world to an area beyond their natural range. This type of species introduction is often due to human transportation and alien species have gained a reputation for being destructive and threatening to biodiversity. This, however, is not always the case, and example of which is Clathrus archeri, or Octopus Stinkhorn, a fungus native to Australia and Tasmania.
Hitching a ride
I was fortunate enough to visit Warwickshire Museum, which holds in its stores the first County record for this species. It is not known exactly how the fungus was transported to the UK, although there is discussion of its spores hitching a ride in bales of wool or in the backpacks of soldiers in the First World War. Alongside Warwickshire, Clathrus archeri has been found in Hampshire, Kent, Surrey and Sussex but in no instances has it started to damage local environments or effect wildlife.
These kinds of collections are vital as they help us keep track of historic changes in distribution. This can be especially important when trying to stop the spread of invasive species such as Floating Pennywort (Hydrocotyle ranunculoides). There are other instances where alien species have naturalised, such as Sweet Chestnut (Castanea sativa) or Rainbow Trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) but unlike both of these species, the Octopus Stinkhorn, although not poisonous, has a foul smell of rotting flesh.