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Friday, March 23, 2012


 Its Latin name is Scleroderma geaster.  Even the Latin name is pretty, not at all the name I would pick for a brown spongy fungus. I wrote about the Earthstar a couple weeks ago Beauty in Brown, but did not know the name.  Thanks to my cousin, Carol, I now know just what this brown beauty is. 
Scleroderma geaster, photo by Nellie Howard
I've done a little research and am glad that I didn't eat it. According to the North Carolina State University website on poisonous plants,
Poisonous Plants of North Carolina, it can cause vomiting and diarrhea within half an hour of digesting.  It can be fatal.  That is why I don't eat any type of mushroom I find in the woods.  Morels may be the exception though I don't particularly enjoy them. 
Do you see how the edges are torn? 
They may separate more until they curl down to the ground.  It doesn't happen in all of the Earthstars but I'll keep an eye on this one and let you know.   There in the middle where it looks a bit like sand is where the center came off. It is also where the mass of spores form, It looks like an animal kicked the center off as it walked through.  There are deer tracks around. I found the center several feet away.
 I think that the fungus was made that way in order to spread its spores further abroad.  Here it is (above) where I placed it on a fence post to get a better view of it from the side. The spores were under this ball, probably there were many attached to it as it came off the "star" part.
Below you may see them back together.  I wanted you to be able to see them side-by-side for size comparison and how they fit together.
Other names for this the Earthstar schleroderma are Devil's snuff box and Dead man's hand
Thanks, Carol for sending me in the right direction for some research on this interesting life form.
This book, below is the most comprehensive book on plants of West Virginia ever published and is widely used for neighboring states also.  It is scientifically done, does NOT fit in a pocket and will build your muscles just by carrying it around.


Out on the prairie said...

Pretty cool a very unusual growth. I would be happy to eat all the morels you may have, I can eat them for any meal.

Beyond My Garden said...

My husband isn't inclined to share. But thanks for the offer.

Simone said...

How interesting, I thought the alternate name of "Devil's snuff box" most appropriate, can honestly say I have never seen anything like it, quite fascinating!