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Geastrum coronatum Pers. - Crowned Earthstar

Phylum: Basidiomycota - Class: Agaricomycetes - Order: Geastrales - Family: Geastraceae

Geastrum coronatum - Crowned Earthstar

Earthstars all look much the same, until you examine them closely. No conclusing can be drawn from the number of rays, as they are very variable. The shape and colouring of the opening at the top of the spore sac plus the attachment of the spore sac to the outer layer that forms the rays are key features.

Geastrum coronatum - Crowned Earthstar, England

Distribution

Widespread but scarce in Britain and Ireland, the Crowned Earthstar is most often recorded in the east of England; however, it has also been reported from Wales and Scotland. Geastrum coronatum is one of several earthstars - all fairly uncommon to rare finds in Britain and Ireland - that have long-lasting fruitbodies such that you can find them at any time of year.

Taxonomic history

The Crowned Earthstar was described scientifically in 1801 by Christiaan Hendrick Persoon, who gave it the binomial scientific name Geastrum coronatum by which it is still generally known today.

Etymology

Geastrum, the generic name, comes from Geo- meaning earth, and -astrum meaning a star. Earthstar it is, then. The specific epithet coronatum means crowned.

Identification guide

Geastrum coronatum, fruitbody

Fruitbody

Spherical when young. Outer wall splits at maturity and forms 5 to 14 (most often 8 to 10) pointed, slightly down-curved cream to ochraceous rays, which are not significantly hygroscopic. Overall diameter at maturity is 5 to 10cm.

Geastrum coronatum, spore sac

Spore sac

The spore sac (bulb) is a slightly flattened grey or brownish bulb 1 to 2.5cm in diameter holding the powdery gleba with which the spores are distributed. A fimbriate peristome (a hole or slit surrounded by stiff hairs, but not ridged) on the top of the 'bulb' releases spores when the wind blows across it or when the sac is squashed.

Geastrum coronatum, detail

Apophysis and stalk

The apophysis and short stalk are concolorous with the bulb.

Spores, Geastrum coronatum

Spores

Spherical, 5-7.5µm in diameter; covered in largish warts.

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Spore mass

Brown.

Odour/taste

Not significant.

Habitat

Most often found under hedges, particularly with Hawthorn.

Season

Fruiting after rain in the late summer and autumn; fruitbodies long lasting and hence visible all year round.

Similar species

Several other Geastrum species are of the same general form, and confident identification may require microscopic study (and a lot of expertise).

Culinary Notes

Earthstars are inedible and have no culinary value, but when dried they can make attractive table decorations as long as they do not get mistaken for pepper shakers!

Reference Sources

Fascinated by Fungi, Pat O'Reilly 2016.

Ellis JB, Ellis MB. (1990). Fungi without Gills (Hymenomycetes and Gasteromycetes): an Identification Handbook. London: Chapman and Hall. ISBN 0-412-36970-2.

Pegler, D.N., Laessoe, T. & Spooner, B.M (1995). British Puffballs, Earthstars and Stinkhorns. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

Dictionary of the Fungi; Paul M. Kirk, Paul F. Cannon, David W. Minter and J. A. Stalpers; CABI, 2008

Taxonomic history and synonym information on these pages is drawn from many sources but in particular from the British Mycological Society's GB Checklist of Fungi and (for basidiomycetes) on Kew's Checklist of the British & Irish Basidiomycota.

Acknowledgements

This page includes pictures kindly contributed by Huw Purvis.

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