My Stars!

Look what popped up in the mulch surrounding the landscaping plants in front of the Fowler Center on campus — earthstars! These “stars” are actually puffballs, fungi in the Geaster genus. Brown dust-like spores are emitted through the central aperture in response to pressure from, say, raindrops. The arms of the star flex in and out in response to the relative humidity. Louis K. K. Krueger, in The Mushroom Handbook, describes this beautifully:

“Let us assume that on some fine autumn day, when mushrooms are almost everywhere if weather conditions have been at all favorable, he [the reader] is taking a walk in the country, accompanied by his inquisitive little son and by a friend well versed in mushroom lore. …

[While crossing the lawn] “But see here at our very feet another of the puffball group. This time, an earthstar. This species is a veritable barometer. If wet weather impends, the points of the star open up and recurve, exposing the central spore-containing ‘stomach’; if the weather promises to be fair, the points close.”  IMG_7434

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