Sounds rather Sci-Fi or New Age doesn’t it? But what I am talking about here is a fungus and I can’t quite believe how excited I was to find them … in our garden!
I only found them because I was wreaking havoc in part of the garden as a result of one of these self-isolation projects that seem to keep popping up.
You know how it is … ‘Why don’t we have a go changing those rickety sleeper steps to a grassy slope?‘, ‘Should we cut down that damson tree that is leaning a bit too much on the corner?‘, ‘Shall we put up more wire fencing along that stretch of boundary to help keep the muntjac out?’
Or in this particular case … ‘Let’s take down those two leylandii monsters, that we hate so much, by the patio pond‘. (I would like to point out that the said leylandii were inherited and have been trimmed hard every year to create a controlled, but effective 2D screen between our patio and our neighbour’s house.)
Anyhow, part of the project involved moving the ferns at the foot of the leylandii to allow access and it was as I was lifting one of the large specimens that I noticed, with some disgust, a shrivelled, peeled brown orange skin thrown down in the leaf litter. It had been carefully torn into a classic waterlily shape:
However, as I picked it up I noticed a puff of very dark brown ‘dust’ shoot out from the underside and as I turned it I realised it was something altogether different: An Earthstar, mature enough to be puffing spores out at the faintest touch.
At least, I think it is a Collared Earthstar, Geastrum triplex**. How I had any idea at all as to what it was can be put down to a period of repeated reading many of Roger Phillips* identification guide books. His Foraging and Fungi guides are particularly well-thumbed (I really love his photos in the Wild Food book).
To cut a long story short, I found a second Earthstar in the dead leaves on the other side of the fern. This one looks like a potato or maybe a cartoon space rocket!
I can’t see a clear collar on either earthstar, but I believe that this is not too unusual. However, they both look passed their prime and there is a possible collar remnant on this second one. Nevertheless, if someone out there knows that this ID is wrong, please let me know.
I am frankly amazed that, what feels like, exotic fungi were growing in such a dry, undistinguished space at the foot of a house wall and a couple of leylandii. So I am off to read up on what they prefer and will hope to re-establish their ‘home’ in the new fern patch, a little further along the border, albeit without those thuggish conifers overhead.
I may have to consider a demure replacement though, since reading that that like do like coniferous woodland, particularly firs and spruces … something like Abies ‘Nana’ perhaps???
* Roger Phillips is a botanist, writer and television presenter
** General references: