Botanical Wednesday: A mystery!

I have no idea what this is. I was sent the photo by a reader who discovered it in a jungle of ferns on Hawaii. It looks vaguely familiar, but perhaps someone here can identify it.


I have a feeling this feature might turn into something like a county fair on Discworld, where people bring in odd-shaped turnips that have curiously titillating shapes when looked at just so.


  1. #1 traustifreyr
    April 14, 2010

    Deepak Chopra perhaps?

  2. #3 Valdyr
    April 14, 2010

    There is nothing to see. It is simply a woody growth. You are all experiencing the pareidolia effect.

  3. #4 vanharris
    April 14, 2010

    Jumpin’ Jeezus on a stick!

  4. #5
    April 14, 2010

    That’s a bit unkind, traustifreyr, but fair comment.

  5. #6 Carlie
    April 14, 2010

    I am shocked that you have the gall to show that. (rimshot)

  6. #7 Matt
    April 14, 2010

    Sure, PZ.
    It was a “reader” who “discovered” this in “Hawaii”.
    Really, it’s nothing to be embarrassed about.
    I’d get that lump checked out though.

  7. #8 Brother Billy
    April 14, 2010

    Besides, shouldn’t that be in the newspaper office in Ankh-Morpork

  8. #9 Feynmaniac
    April 14, 2010

    Whatever it is, it seems happy to see you.

  9. #10 ldcornett
    April 14, 2010

    Hmmm. I think I’ve seen something like this somewhere else…

  10. #11 Louis
    April 14, 2010

    Well it looks like a small set of male genitals to me PZ. Anyone else?



    Just me then. Ok.


  11. #12 Athena
    April 14, 2010

    Is that why it’s called a woody? :^)

  12. #13
    April 14, 2010

    It looks suspiciously like the root node of a fern… What do you call a grouping of individual fern frons, a colony? Anyhow, these things have a habit of invading my landlady’s garden, and I’ve dug more than a few of these out of the ground!


  13. #14 Sili, The Unknown Virgin
    April 14, 2010


    See kids? This is what happens if you don’t get your mumps shot.

  14. #15 Celtic_Evolution
    April 14, 2010

    Whatever it is, it seems happy to see you.

    Nah… that’s clearly the result of the tickler being used at the bottom of the image…

  15. #16 dutchdoc
    April 14, 2010

    It’s NIXON! Spitting image!

  16. #17 Steve LaBonne
    April 14, 2010

    Whatever it is, it’s got one hell of a hydrocele problem.

  17. #18 ambook
    April 14, 2010

    Is this the time to make Vatican themed jokes?

  18. #19 Celtic_Evolution
    April 14, 2010

    looks a bit like this to me…

  19. #20 Bobber
    April 14, 2010

    Dunno, dutchdoc. It’s a little tricky.

  20. #21
    April 14, 2010

    Remove it at once, else the pope will be offended if he visits Hawaii

  21. #22 ChrisD
    April 14, 2010

    If that looks vaguely familiar then I suggest you see a doctor.

  22. #23 Alex
    April 14, 2010

    hmm…im seeing a happy elephant in the “beg” position normally demonstrated by dogs

  23. #24 JD
    April 14, 2010

    Deepak’s quantum dong.

  24. #25 lenoxuss
    April 14, 2010

    An excellent example of pareidolia; every time someone sees a face on Mars or St. Peter on their Pop-Tarts or whatever, you have an excuse to link to this.

    (If you take the trouble to really examine it, it’s not nearly the shape of a healthy? set. The shaft is completely disconnected from the testicles, which are all weird and lumpy. And the head is just stuck on the side of an otherwise up-pointing shaft. Yeah, all right, it’s also completely the wrong color, texture, etc?)

  25. #26 MolBio
    April 14, 2010

    Looks like a sporing body of some sort.

  26. #27 Siberian Beetle
    April 14, 2010

    This is undeniable evidence of intelligent design. Could your so-called “evolutions” create something as miraculous as treedick?

  27. #28 JimL
    April 14, 2010

    Joseph Merrick with his pants down?

  28. #29 KaneHau
    April 14, 2010


    That’s no mystery… that is Hapu’u fern.

    That is how the fern starts out… a very soft fuzzy covering and it is all curled up inside. It slowly unravels and a fern comes out.

    There are a number of variety of Hapu’u ranging in size from very tiny (basket ball sized) to utterly huge (30 feet tall).

    I have a raised Hapu’u garden in my back yard that grows anthuriums below the ferns, very nice.

    Also… that fuzzy stuff, they used to use it to make pillows back in the early days.

    Here is a link to my site with more information on it:


  29. #30 tutone21
    April 14, 2010

    This is nothing new. I see these types of growth all the time on the ASU campus. Even the trees want to get some here!!

  30. #31 daveau
    April 14, 2010

    Well, for once, it doesn’t look like a vagina.

  31. #32 MrFire
    April 14, 2010

    Nobody else sees a clenched-tentacle salute? For shame…

  32. #33 Randomfactor
    April 14, 2010

    To me it looks like a monkey on his knees praying to the Christian god, turned into wood by the vengeance of the One True Monkey God who Is A Jealous God.

    Pascal’s Wager Fail.

  33. #34 AdamK
    April 14, 2010

    It’s an ent, pining for an entwife.

  34. #35 SEF
    April 14, 2010

    The picture is the wrong way round and it’s a clump of fern fronds about to unwrap themselves. By coincidence, I was just looking at another picture of a clump of unfurling fern fronds earlier today – except that that one looked like a very angry blobby creature futilely waving two fists in the air (at an uncaring imaginary god?).

  35. #36 Randomfactor
    April 14, 2010

    Speaking of monkey gods,


    Quick vote
    Do you attend church regularly?

    No 68% 173714
    Yes 32% 79898

    You guys already been there? :)

  36. #37 Pacal
    April 14, 2010

    “Oh Baby its so BIGGGG!!!!

    “oh, oh!!”

  37. #38 Paul W., OM
    April 14, 2010

    You didn’t know that trees can reproduce sexually?

    You’ve never seen an ent’s nether bits?

  38. #39 puseaus
    April 14, 2010

    This must be a proof of something.

  39. #40 Franklin Percival
    April 14, 2010

    It’s a still from one of those specialist Japanese porno flicks.

  40. #41 Dusty5150
    April 14, 2010

    It’s a va-guy-na.

  41. #42 Acronym Jim
    April 14, 2010

    JimL @ 28: Your observation provides proof that Elephantiasis isn’t all bad.

  42. #43
    April 14, 2010

    Hey! It’s pareidolia at work. Although it would make a nice gift for uncle ratzi.

  43. #44 alysonmiers
    April 14, 2010

    If you turn your head 90 degrees to the right, it looks like a winged monster paddling around on water like a swan.

  44. #45 itsumademootaku
    April 14, 2010

    @Roy, #13:

    these things have a habit of invading my landlady’s garden

    Was that an intentional double-entendre?

  45. #46 mothra
    April 14, 2010

    It’s not the pariedolic effect, it is a squirrel sitting upright on its haunches. The squirrel’s bushy tail is overlapped by a fern in the lower left. It has both arms/paws firmly clasped on a ray gun which it is pointing upper right at 2:00- aimed at an off screen and so invisible god.

  46. #47 Ragutis
    April 14, 2010

    It’s just a knob on a tree.

  47. #48 waynerobinson4
    April 14, 2010

    I recognised it immediately at first glance. The fern leaf was placed there by a visiting New Zealander in reference to the symbol of the New Zealand “All Blacks” football rugby team.

    Am I missing something?

  48. #49
    April 14, 2010

    When I first looked at it yesterday, I thought it looked like a gorilla trying to climb a tree.

  49. #50 'Tis Himself, OM
    April 14, 2010

    It’s a coat hook. What else could it be?

  50. #51 TJ Hanlon
    April 14, 2010

    And where are the Grilled Cheese Marians? Based on this, one would expect priests coming “out” in droves!

  51. #52 People's Front of Judea
    April 14, 2010

    Last time I saw one of those was in confessional!

  52. #53 Seraphiel
    April 14, 2010

    It’s a rocket ship!


  53. #54 tony.quirke
    April 14, 2010

    There is, in fact, a whole website dedicated to objects of this nature.

    The Internet – sniggering like an eleven year old schoolboy since 1985.

  54. #55 Haley
    April 14, 2010

    Jesus Christ, I think it has every STI known to man.

  55. #56 archereon
    April 14, 2010

    Hi All, just thought I would let you guys know Bananaman cumfarts bastardized origin of species has now been found in nz, five copies were given to an opshop here in welly this morning, of which I got one, damn the introduction is cringeworthy.

  56. #57 farhat.habib
    April 15, 2010

    I wonder if this is a closed relative of one of these despite morphological differences

  57. #58 sasqwatch
    April 15, 2010

    I have been deeply offended by this.

    Seriously. The pain is just awful.

  58. #59 Bad Earl
    April 15, 2010

    I believe it is the Polyporaceae holmesii, also known as the “woodhorn”, or “old maid’s dream” mushroom. It is reportedly delicious when sauteed in butter and served over rice.

  59. #60 Sintesi
    April 15, 2010

    A three toed sloth that was so pathetically slow it couldn’t outrun the growth of tree bark.

  60. #61 Bix12
    April 16, 2010

    A babies arm holding an apple?

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