Geastrum triplex (Collared Earthstar)
I received a phone call from a friend who'd spotted an 'unusual looking' fungus growing behind his green house. I duly requested a photograph to be sent via mobile phone and it appeared to be the Collared Earthstar, but of course I needed to see for myself.
Despite being Christmas Eve, it was important I took a look before it, or they vanished.
There were three or four growing a few feet apart. I have not seen many Earthstar but when I have, my first thoughts are how tiny they are in reality. As even when the rays are fully formed this fungus would fit in the palm of your hand. These were a little past their best with the rays looking a little brown and sodden but the 'bulb' was still firm and a nice grey colour.
The Collared Earthstar more than likely is the most common of the Geastrum.
The characteristics are as follows:
Initially the 'bulb' is only 5cm across. It opens out to about 10 cm and has between 4 and 8 pointed rays. The spore sac is greyish in colour and has a central pore. The rays grow more upright with age and eventually slightly turn back on themselves. This can cause them to crack a little. The spore sac looks as though it is sitting on a little collar.
It usually grows in leaf litter near to deciduous trees between late Summer to Autumn.
Below is a photograph. The rays are past their best.
A more detailed photograph can be seen at www.fungiworld.co.uk on Browse 5.