Earthstar Wars

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Sunday, 8 March 2015 07:51

Until today I had only ever seen two earthstars, Collared and Sessile. Now I've seen four. Yet I'm not sure which four. So how did all this start? Well, with a sneeze of course. Tuesday morning I sneezed and put my back out so I've had a rough week with it. No training. Two walks to the GP's the only exercise in four days and then come Friday it got worse. Walking to the GP's, I got an email from Jim and Dawn Langiwicz asking about the Cedar Cups in Midhurst. He couldn't find them but had found what he thought was Arched Earthstar Geastrum fornicatum in a churchyard nearby. He was starting to think he had two species though and I agreed from his photos. So Tony, Heather and I went across this afternoon to have a look and it didn't take long to find the species on the right which we knew wasn't Arched Earthstar. We were pretty convinced it was Beaked Earthstar Geastrum pectinatum. We looked for the second (the left-hand one) which we were (and still are) convinced is Arched Earthstar Geastrum fornicatum. Here's a close up of that one.

Apart from the obvious colour differences, they seemed more upright, with a stouter collar, more 'blocky' spore capsule (Tony pointed out the two species had different spores too), they lacked a distinct beak and also lacked the raised rim around the beak of the other species.

Here is the other species showing a rounder spore capsule. Badgers have been so busy in the cemetery that they had dug a few of the Arched Earthstars up, so I took one over (the above photo) for direct comparison.

So I'm having an exciting night in identifying things when Tony chirps up saying he thinks we've got Rayed Earthstar Geastrum quadrifidum. I think he's right. The beak looks too short for beaked, which also lacks the raised pale area around the beak. The neck seams a little stouter too. We'll have to wait and see what the mycologists say. Either way, I've always wanted to see one of these cracking little things and was pretty stoked to see two within 20 metres of each other.

In the morning we had a walk around Ambersham. Nice to things like Brismtones and Green Tiger Beetles out but the highlight for me was seeing my first Sussex Uloborus walckenaerius. Ambersham is one of only two sites in West Sussex for this RDB3 spider and I beat three from heather along the side of a south-facing path.

I also saw the first new beetle I've seen in a while, I beat two Sphaeriestes castaneus off a pine tree. Lovely to get back out in the field and to feel like I'm on the mend again! A big thanks to Jim and Dawn too for the earthstars, the first real cool day out in the field in 2015!

5 Response to "Earthstar Wars"

Unknown Says:

G. quadrifidum usually turns out to be the new G. britannicum.

Graeme Lyons Says:

Well that's just great Anonymous! Make it even more confusing.

Unknown Says:

Hi Graham,
My previous email got lost!
You said you're not sure which species you found - neither is anybody else! They've just done the DNA and it turns out there are a few more Geastrum species than we previously thought. The freely downloadable paper is here: http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/nhn/pimj/pre-prints/content-nbc_persoonia_0307
Good luck!
Malcolm Storey

Graeme Lyons Says:

Thanks Malcolm! It gets more and more confusing! I think Martin Allison is going to have a look soon.

James Langiewicz Says:

Lets hope we can settle this one soon Graeme, the suspense is killing us lol
Thanks again for your kind help with the cups today, here is a link to our album of some of the photos from today
https://flic.kr/ps/swWRc

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