Geastrum pectinatum (Pers.) - Beaked Earthstar

Phylum: Basidiomycota - Class: Agaricomycetes - Order: Geastrales - Family: Geastraceae

Geastrum pectinatum - Beaked Earthstar

The Beaked Earthstar (also referred to in some field guides as the Beret Earthstar) is rarely seen for two reasons: it is rare, and it is very easy to miss because it blends in so well with fallen leaves and other dead vegetation in coniferous or broadleaf woodland, which is where this earthstar generally occurs.

Unlike the Barometer Earthstar Astraeus hygrometricus, the rays of the Beaked Earthstar are not hygroscopic, and so once the rays have become fully extended they remain in much the same position come rain or shine.

Distribution

From mid summer through to winter and often into the following spring the Beaked Earthstar can be seen in a few places in Britain and Ireland, but this is quite a rare find and tends to be localised.

Taxonomic history

The basionym of this species dates from 1801, when the Beaked Earthstar was described scientifically by Christiaan Hendrik Persoon in his Synopsis Methodicae Fungorum and given the binomial scientific name Geastrum pectinatum by which it is generally known today.

Synonyms of Geastrum pectinatum include Geaster pectinatus (Pers.) Quél., Geastrum plicatum Berk., and Geastrum tenuipes Berk.

Etymology

Geastrum, the generic name, comes from Geo- meaning earth, and -astrum meaning a star. Earthstar it is, then. The specific epithet pectinatum means 'like a comb' and may be a reference to the comb-like striations around the 'beak'.

Identification guide

Pore (spore exit hole) of Geastrum pectinatum

Spore sac

The pale greyish-blue to greyish-violet spore sac (often referred to as the bulb) is 1 to 3cm across and subglobose (in the form of a vertically compressed sphere) with a long, striated beak terminating in a small round pore via which spores emerge. The beak-to-spore sac connection is usually umbonate (the beak sitting in a shallow depression).

 

Closeup of neck of Geastrum pectinatumnatum

Ray structure

The outer peridium, which at maturity forms the base of the fruitbody, comprises six to nine irregular pointed rays up to 7cm across when fully expanded.

The spore sac stands above its base separated by a short stalk that has no basal collar - this feature differentiates the Beaked Earthstar from the slightly smaller but otherwise very similar Striated Earthstar Geastrum striatum, which has a basal colar.

Spores of Geastrum pectinatum

Spores

Globose, warty, 5-6μm diameter excluding the warts.

Spore mass

Dark brown.

Odour/taste

Not noticeable.

Habitat

Mainly found under conifers, particularly Yew, but sometimes with hardwood trees; reported also to appear in gardens and parkland very occasionally.

Season

Fruiting in the autumn; long lasting, and often visible all year round.

Similar species

Several other Geastrum species are of the same general form, and confident identification requires a lot of expertise.

Culinary Notes

Earthstars are inedible and have no culinary value, but when dried they can make attractive table decorations as long as they do not get mistaken for pepper shakers!

Reference Sources

Fascinated by Fungi, Pat O'Reilly 2016.

Pegler, D.N., Laessoe, T. & Spooner, B.M (1995). British Puffballs, Earthstars and Stinkhorns. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

Ellis J B, Ellis M B. (1990). Fungi without Gills (Hymenomycetes and Gasteromycetes): an Identification Handbook. London: Chapman and Hall. ISBN 0-412-36970-2.

BMS List of English Names for Fungi

Dictionary of the Fungi; Paul M. Kirk, Paul F. Cannon, David W. Minter and J. A. Stalpers; CABI, 2008

Taxonomic history and synonym information on these pages is drawn from many sources but in particular from the British Mycological Society's GB Checklist of Fungi and (for basidiomycetes) on Kew's Checklist of the British & Irish Basidiomycota.

Acknowledgements

This page includes pictures kindly contributed by Simon Harding.

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