IT looks like a deadly alien from a terrifying sci-fi movie.

But this bizarre-looking species is actually a harmless mushroom that has been found growing wild in the New Forest National Park.

Ecologist Dan Hoare, who works for the charity Butterfly Conservation, was on a visit to the Forest when he came across the fungus.

Minutes after his arrival foul-smelling tentacles burst from an egg-like sack and reached out into the air.

Dan, 41, of Winchester, said: "I'd been told the fungi were there were there and found about 200 of them near Brockenhurst. Luckily I got there at exactly the right time.

"They've been in the Forest for a couple of years and as far as we know they're not doing any harm."

But he sparkled a Twitter frenzy after taking photographs and posting them online with the caption “alien eggs hatching in the New Forest”.

Some social media users said the fungus looked like an alien while others branded it “nightmare fuel”.

Often compared to the face-hugging monster in the film Alien, the fungus is known as the "octopus stinkhorn" or "devil's fingers".

It originated in Australia and New Zealand but spread to British shores in the 1940s and has been found in seven counties across the UK, including Hampshire.

A woman was left reeling from the foul smell, said to resemble the stink of rotting flesh, after finding one in Devon.

As it matures, red tentacles emerge from the sack and grow to between five and ten centimetres in length. Flies attracted by a sticky brown goo called gleba end up covered in spores, enabling the fungi to reproduce as the insects travel far and wide.

The fungus is not poisonous and poses no known hazard.

One expert said: "The octopus stinkhorn is actually edible although its putrid smell and foul taste means it isn't normally something that people would serve for dinner.

"But it could be eaten in extreme instances, such as getting lost in the wilderness and running short of food. The eggs are considered a delicacy in some countries."