Wednesday, March 5, 2008

a really weird little thing...

Astraeus hygrometricus, Barometer Earthstar. These are growing all over the place at the cabin up in the woods! I was clearing out a little garden space by the front and they were mixed in with the leaves. They are very alien like leather starfish... but full of spores!

"This month's fungus honors that famous "star in the east," which led the three wise men to the manger. However, as its name would imply, this month's star is confined to the earth, usually in dry sandy areas, forming mycorrhizal relationships with the roots of pines and other trees. It's fun to find one of these small earthstars, which are usually about 2 inches (5 cm) across, including the rays.
This earthstar is sometimes called the "barometer earthstar," because the pointed rays of the star react to the amount of water in the air. When it's very dry, the ray-shaped arms fold around the center puffball to protect it from predators and the elements. However as the rains begin, the different parts of the hygroscopic rays absorb water at different rates, causing them to unfold to expose the center puffball."

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