Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Star

Our walk through Pewit Carr at the weekend, was notable for one reason.  Just as I was lamenting the lack of fungi this year, I noticed, growing at the base of a tree, a small group of Common Earth Stars (Geastrum saccatum).
This strange-looking fungus is quite common in the UK although can be rather localised.  It is a saprophytic species, meaning that it survives by decomposing dead and decaying organic material - as do many fungi species.  When it first emerges from the ground, the Earth Star is an egg-shaped structure, slightly pointed at the top.  As it matures however, the outer layer breaks apart into between 4 and 9 triangular arms revealing the ping-pong ball-like structure within.  It is this central structure which contains the spores.
Each spore measures between 3.5 and 4.5 microns across (meaning that about 5000 of them would sit across a 1p coin).  The Earth Star contains a compound called Beta-Glucan which has proven to be useful as an anti-inflammatory, an antioxidant and has cytotoxic qualities which may be helpful in the treatment of some cancers.  You never know what's out there..!
With all the autumnal decay happening at the moment, these Earth Stars will have plenty to feed on.
These maples are to be found losing their leaves on the near-by Pewit Golf Course.
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