Dave was doing some yard work yesterday and moved a tarp in our yard to reveal some weird growths we had never seen before. He's a fairly knowledgeable plant guy, but had never seen these, and decided they were mushrooms. So we looked 'em up and it turns out they are called Earth Stars and are definitely fungi.

According to this Utah State University article I found, these are also called "stomach fungi" because their bodies are a "stomach-shaped sac filled with dry spores." These earthstars in our yard are open, closed earthstars are onion shaped with a skin that has 3 layers. Apparently, no other fungi can do this, but when it rains, "the outer two layers of the peridium split and uncurl, forming a "star" with 4 to 12 rays. The inner layer of the peridium remains a closed sac." As Bill Nye would say in his old "Science Guy" TV show, "isn't that WILD!?"

First two questions people ask. Are they edible, and will they get you high. They are NOT edible, although a dried earthstar is long lasting, so some like to keep them as souvenirs of forest adventures. I couldn't find any claims that the fungi can get you high, however, it is said that ancestors of the Montana Blackfeet tribes, the Gros Ventre specifically, felt they were fallen stars that would fall to earth during supernatural events. I love that explanation!

I imagine some of you have encountered these in Montana before, what do you know about them? We feel like this is our first time seeing them because of the environment produced by the tarp in the yard. Pretty neat discovery right before the snow fell this week!

Photo by Dave