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As we come to the end of the mushroom season in the UK, it’s good to reflect on the strange beauty (and often, downright wierdness) that the fungal kingdom often displays.  Members of the Geastraceae family (Earthstars) are distinctive fungi; in outward appearance their fruiting bodies are not unlike those of the more familar Puffballs, but are a rarer, and more spectacular, find in the UK.

The rarest and most striking Earthstar of all is the Pepperpot, Myriostoma coliforme, which is the only member of the family to have multiple holes in its spore-sac, giving rise to its common name.  The force of raindrops falling on the spongy spore-sac causes clouds of spores to be ejected from the holes and dispersed.

Although this species has a global distribution, it is rare in most of Europe, and was thought to be extinct in mainland Britain – until it was found in Suffolk in 2006.  It is still classified as Critically Endangered in the UK, and its future has to be considered uncertain; but it’s good to think that the species is probably still around, patiently extending its mycelia somewhere beneath the grass, waiting.

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