Spongebob Squarepants mushroom (Spongiforma squarepantsii)

GenusSpongiforma (1)
Top facts

The Spongebob Squarepants mushroom is not yet classified on the IUCN Red List. 

The newly discovered Spongebob Squarepants mushroom, named after the world’s most famous cartoon sponge, was formally described in 2011. This species belongs to the relatively new Spongiforma genus that was first described from Thailand in 2009 (1).

The Spongebob Squarepants mushroom is recognisable by its reproductive spore-bearing organs, or basidiomes, which are small, rubbery and sponge-like. The basidiomes are pale whitish-orange on the outer surface and deep orange inside, with small but deep cavities that are lined with spore-producing tissue. They are around 30 to 50 millimetres in diameter and 20 to 30 millimetres tall. The spores themselves are reddish-brown with a bumpy surface (1).

Lacking a stem, the Spongebob Squarepants mushroom instead has a narrow, branched central column that is attached to a rough, root-like aggregation of filaments, or hyphae, which stretch out to gather food and nutrients (1).

The odour of the Spongebob Squarepants mushroom is said to be either slightly fruity, or strongly musty (1). 

The Spongebob Squarepants mushroom is only known from the Lambir Hills National Park, northern Borneo, in the Malaysian state of Sarawak (1). 

Always found beneath tall dipterocarp trees of the family Dipterocarpaceae, which are commonly used for their resin and timber, the Spongebob Squarepants mushroom grows in the Lambir Hills National Park in Borneo. This National Park is a tropical rainforest that receives around 3,000 millimetres of rain every year, and has no seasons. The daily temperature ranges from 24 to 32 degrees Celsius, and although the forest itself is dominated by dipterocarp species, it also contains more than 1,000 other tree species (1). 

There is little information currently available on the biology of the Spongebob Squarepants mushroom. However, it is suggested that this species’ reproductive spores are dispersed by animals that are attracted to its distinctive smell (1) (2). Animals attracted to the fruiting body, or spore-producing organ, are likely to eat it and disperse the spores as they defecate (2).

Spongiforma species are typically found in association with dipterocarp trees on both mainland Southeast Asia and the island of Borneo, leading scientists to predict that more members of the genus will be found in other regions where dipterocarp species are dominant (1).

There are no known threats to the Spongebob Squarepants mushroom at present. The Lambir Hills National Park has the highest tree species diversity in the world (3), and is reported to be beautiful and relatively undisturbed (4). 

There are no known conservation measures currently in place for the Spongebob Squarepants mushroom.

Find out more about the Spongebob Squarepants mushroom:

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:

  1. Desjardin, D., Peay, K. and Bruns, T. (2011) Spongiforma squarepantsii, a new species of gasteroid bolete from Borneo. Mycologia, 103(5): 1119-1123. Available at:
  2. Bruns, T. and Desjardin, D. (2010) Spongiforma squarepantsii: What’s in a name? and what’s the underlying biology? Mushroom the Journal, 107(28): 55-59. Available at:
  3. Azlan, J. and Lading, E. (2006) Camera trapping and conservation in Lambir Hills National Park, Sarawak. The Raffles Bulletin of Zoology, 54(2): 469-475.
  4. WWF - The Malaysian Rainforest (January, 2013)