Q What’s the strange star-shaped fungi un­der our ash trees?

Garden News (UK) - - The Problem Solver -

Carol Brodie, Whitchurch, Buck­ing­hamshire

A These sound like earth­stars. There are 18 species of earth­stars in the UK, but most are quite rare. The most com­mon species, the col­lared earth­star ( Geas­trum triplex), how­ever, is quite of­ten en­coun­tered in ar­eas of de­cid­u­ous trees. Earth­stars are sapro­trophs, grow­ing on dead or­ganic mat­ter, and are found in the leaf lit­ter be­neath trees, pro­duc­ing these quite un­usual mush­rooms dur­ing au­tumn. The outer shell opens out to re­veal the thin-walled sac in the mid­dle.

In the case of the col­lared earth­star, when the outer cas­ing folds out like the petals of a flower, a crack emerges near the cen­tre, giv­ing the ap­pear­ance of a col­lar around the spore sac. When rain or wind dis­turbs the earth­star, spores are re­leased through an open­ing at the top.

The col­lared earth­star is noth­ing to worry about in the gar­den

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