National Trust Purbeck Wildlife

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Over the last week or two, I’ve been keeping an eye on a couple of earthstars growing beneath a silver birch tree next to our visitor centre. They are related to puffballs but with a curious twist – earthstars can move! As they grow, the outer layer of skin splits and curls back on itself forming arms that gradually lift the fruiting body above any surrounding plants or leaf litter. Just like puffballs, the spores are carried in a round sac with a small hole in the top. When raindrops hit the sac, spores are puffed out of the hole and into the air to disperse.
I tried giving it a gentle tap and a mass of spores, looking like a puff of fine black smoke, drifted away on the breeze. I like to think I was helping the earthstar colonise a new piece of ground where other people can enjoy seeing this strange fungus.