Geastrum triplex Collared Earthstar
I got very impatient (bored silly) at a faculty meeting many years ago and decided I just had to skip out early (very early). It had hardly started but the agenda nearly put me to sleep. At any rate, to justify my premature escape I went off to a nearby wood (Little Tract) to scout around for something special. I found the finest collection of Geastrum I had ever seen. The patch was at least a metre square and contained hundreds of Fruitbodies at all stages of development. This is one of the many shots I took that day. The moral is clear if you have a choice of going to a faculty meeting or the woods, it pays to go to the woods. At least if you can find something so special that it salves your conscience. I have never seen a collection of Geastrum triplex this impressive before or since - and time is running out.
Geastrum triplex not so Collared Earthstar
I got an E-mail the other day from a gentleman in Mississippi and it reads as follows: "Here in southern Mississippi a fairly common Geastrum is one opening to about 11cm across and it's G. triplex in every respect I can determine except that there is no hint of a collar. Ours are not the least colonial, always appear alone, plus they seem to be larger than G. triplex. Any idea what it could be?"
Response: Dear Jim:
Despite what you say I think your species may indeed be Geastrum triplex. I have a book on British species of Gasteromycetes and it describes and illustrates 16 species of Geastrum. G.triplex is far and away the largest species and the range is 3.5-12.5 cm so that is just about the size you are talking about. All of the G. triplex I have seen have been fairly big but not usually over 10 cm. This may be a varietal thing or perhaps growing conditions are better in Mississippi! The description also emphasizes how common this species is and that it is widely distributed in temperate and subtropical regions. So, again it fits. More than this, I have 'expanded' G. triplex on my lawn from 'eggs' collected in the woods (see above) and they don't always produce a collar. It may be related to the uniformity of conditions as the outer peridium breaks and reflexes to form the star. Uneven drying results in a collar. Constant high humidity (Mississippi in the summer?) suppresses the collar. I took a picture of my collarless triplex on the lawn. If I can find it I'll put it on my website and let you know.
So! There is the picture above! AFTERTHOUGHT 6 YEARS LATER - and here is where I found the egg it came from.