With red tentacles that appear to ‘hatch’ from a fleshy egg-like sac, it is little wonder this woodland fungus was mistaken for an alien life-form online.
Images of the fungus, known as devil’s fingers, sparked a Twitter frenzy after they were posted by wildlife enthusiast Dan Hoare with the caption ‘alien eggs hatching in the New Forest’.
Photos of the unusual-looking growth attracted dozens of comments from curious social media users, with some saying it looked like and ‘alien’ and others branding it ‘nightmare fuel’.
Some Twitter users even questioned if they were real, while others said they had ‘never seen anything like’ the grotesque fungus.
Four photographs of the ‘devil’s fingers’, apparently taken in the New Forest, were posted by Mr Hoare, who works for Butterfly Conservation, on November 10.
The first image shows the fungus – also known as octopus stinkhorn – in its ‘gelatinous egg stage’, its reddish arms folded against the walls of the clouded sac.
In the second photograph, the four arms press against the sac walls – about to break free.
Arms extended, the fungus is seen standing almost upright out of the ground in the third picture before it fans out – revealing a sticky black substance.
Twitter users were quick to quiz Mr Hoare about his discovery, asking him questions about where the specimen was spotted and where it was from.
One user wrote: ‘wooaahh are they for real!?’. Another replied: ‘I’ve always thought all fungi are from another world. This one proves it!’
A third added: ‘Alien?!’ And one simply tweeted ‘monstrous’.
According to Mr Hoare, devil’s fingers, are becoming increasingly common in the New Forest.
Native to Australia and New Zealand, they were first sighted in Cornwall in 1946 and have since spread around the UK.
They have since been spotted in Bedfordshire, Hampshire, Kent, Suffolk, Surrey, and the Channel Islands.