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. Valdyr says

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

  2. says

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

  3. Matt says

    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.

  4. Louis says

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



    Just me then. Ok.


  5. says

    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!


  6. Sili, The Unknown Virgin says


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

  7. Celtic_Evolution says

    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…

  8. says

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

  9. Alex says

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

  10. lenoxuss says

    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…)

  11. Siberian Beetle says

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

  12. KaneHau says


    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:


  13. tutone21 says

    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!!

  14. Randomfactor says

    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.

  15. SEF says

    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?).

  16. Randomfactor says

    Speaking of monkey gods,


    Quick vote
    Do you attend church regularly?

    No 68% 173714
    Yes 32% 79898

    You guys already been there? :)

  17. Paul W., OM says

    You didn’t know that trees can reproduce sexually?

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

  18. Acronym Jim says

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

  19. alysonmiers says

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

  20. itsumademootaku says

    @Roy, #13:

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

    Was that an intentional double-entendre?

  21. mothra says

    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.

  22. waynerobinson4 says

    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?

  23. says

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

  24. TJ Hanlon says

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

  25. archereon says

    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.

  26. Bad Earl says

    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.

  27. Sintesi says

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