Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Earthstar

Image: Tatiana Bulyonkova
Fringed Earthstar (Geastrum fimbriatum)
It sounds like a cult, 1950's sci-fi show, but it looks more like a prop from a cult, 1950's sci-fi show!

Earthstars are about 64 species of fungus in the Geastraceae family, found in woods and forests all over the world.

Image: Jeff Butterworth
The mushroom, the actual "earthstar", is the fruiting body. The rest of the fungus uses it to release spores who will hopefully land somewhere nice so they can grow into whole, new fungi.

Image: Ryane Snow
The fruiting body starts off looking a bit like an onion...

Image: Harry Harris
But soon the outer surface splits open and unfurls, revealing the spore sac within.

Image: JJ Harrison
Rounded Earthstar (Geastrum saccatum)
Some of them look lovely! Like little marzipan decorations you could put on top of your birthday cake. A different kind of forest gateau, perhaps?

Image: Josef F. Stuefer
Collared Earthstar (Geastrum triplex)
They don't taste like marzipan decorations, though. They're not poisonous, but they don't taste good, either.

Image: Amadej Trnkoczy
Spores of Collared Earthstar (Raison d'etre)
Which is fine for the Earthstar since their plans don't include a visit to your alimentary canal.

Image: Sarah Gregg
There is a little hole at the top of the spore sac.


It's from this hole that the spores are released and caught by the winds to travel far and wide.

Image: Lord Mayonnaise
Beaked Earthstar (Geastrum pectinatum)
Some Earthstars put their spore sac at the end of a stalk to give their spores a better chance of catching some air.

Image: photosan0
Collared Earthstar showing its collar
The petals help out, too...


They push the spore sac up off the ground a bit.

Image: GLJIVARSKO DRUSTVO NIS
Acrobatic Earthstar (Geastrum fornicatum)
But some Earthstars take this to a whole new level; they have tough, fibrous petals that extend downwards and lift the spore sac right up. They act like a little table!

Image: Diana Marcela Rocabado Reyes
Salt-shaker Earthstar (Myriostoma coliforme)
The biggest Earthstar of all is the Salt-shaker Earthstar. It reaches 12 cm (5 in) across and has a giant spore sac at the end of several short stalks and covered in lots of small holes.

That's what I like about mushrooms...

Image: Rui Oliveira Costa
You're never too far from an alien world!
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