Rare Mushroom In My Yard: Devil’s Cigar, Texas Star (Chorioactis geaster)

Chorioactis geaster AKA Devil's cigar, orTexas star. Photographed 12/25/2013

Chorioactis geaster AKA Devil’s cigar, orTexas star. Photographed 12/25/2013

Last night I began editing 170 photos, plus. I came across several pics of the mushroom and then I looked in Google to find the name. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that “my mushroom” is a rarity. Literature says it springs forth near the base of a stump or dead roots of the Cedar Elm (Ulmus crassifoli). I don’t remember when that tree was felled. There are other Cedar Elms that are alive and thriving in my yard.

Chorioactis geaster is called Devil’s cigar and also Texas star. It emerges from the soil in the shape of a dark cigar and then bursts open to reveal a rather unusual and pretty mushroom. It is found in one other country. In Japan the mushrooms appear on exposed trunks or branches of a dead oak. Deforestation in Japan has caused this mushroom to be considered a rarity and has been placed on the endangered species list.

This mushroom is referred to as saprotrophic which means it absorbs and metabolizes on a molecular scale for its nutrition. According to literature it’s found in very moist areas. The one in my yard is near the goat’s pen. His water bucket often overflows because I am a lame brain and have my eyes scanning the bushes and trees for birds and in the warm months looking toward the butterfly garden. I’ve left the hose running for hours and a few times over night. I tend to become absorbed in other attractions and then forget to turn off the hydrant.

Texas stars appear only during fall and winter but sometimes as late as April. I found this one on Christmas Day after walking back to the house after I had fed Billy Bob, my goat. The mushroom had emerged from the moist soil near a very intact old stump. At the time I had no idea this one species is rare and found only in several counties of central and northeastern Texas. McLennan county, where I live, is not listed as one of the counties where it has been seen. So maybe this is a first recorded sighting. I have no idea if my photo record would be accepted by the science community. Experts are very particular in what they consider as an accepted record.

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63 thoughts on “Rare Mushroom In My Yard: Devil’s Cigar, Texas Star (Chorioactis geaster)

  1. So interesting, Yvonne. I never knew there was such a thing. And I appreciate how you encourage your son to hunt with a camera. =)

    Diana

    • Hello, Diana. The geaster was a first sighting for me and I of course did not know of this mushroom’s existence. Perhaps it has been coming up for a few years now and I just happened to miss its emergence in the winter.

      Thanks so much for visiting my blog. I am behind reading other blogger’s posts. :-)

  2. hayley says:

    What a beautiful example of fungus! I too haven’t seen or heard of this type before.

    • Hi Haley. Thanks for having a view and commenting. The Texas Star is indeed an odity, at least to me. My first time to see one and in my own backyard. I surely never expected to see anything of the sort. ~yvonne

  3. It’s quite beautiful Yvonne, and the name Texas Star is gorgeous. Is it edible/poisonous or what? i couldn’t be doing with pernickety jumping through hoops to register it, but if you can, go for it.

    • Ms Gib, truthfully I have not the energy nor the inclination to go through the steps of getting it verified for my county. So the pic is the best that I can do. I received word back from a Baylor botany prof that he has seen the Texas Star on his 24 acre property in McLennan county. He said it was not an uncommon site on his place so I’m just going to leave as is on this blog.

      Thanks so much for commenting. You are much appreciated. ~yvonne

      • Reading down through your comments he sounded to me to be a bit snotty. I can’t be doing with people who are so far up themselves and try to put other people down. While Mr Snooty Prof may not appreciate your photos and your botanical interest, the rest of us do. For what that’s worth.

      • Yes, I initially spoke with him via phone. He asked if I had “saved” the specimen. I told him no. I saw no point in saving something that at the time I thought grew just about everywhere. He informed me that the science community always want a specimen as proof. It was then that I really did not care what the snotty/snooty nose intellects needed or cared about. My pic was all that mattered to me.

        Thanks again for writing your opinion/s. I care about what you and other folk have to say.

      • If it is rare I disagree with the idea of uprooting to cutting something for the benefit of the ‘scientific community’ to gaze at under their microscopes. Couldn’t they get off their idle backsides and have a look at the location and check that out against your photo? Or they could give your location a provisional rating until you see another one, and then have a nice little all-expenses paid jolly out to your place.

        I shall award you top marks for an interesting find, a very pretty mushroom and a good photo :)

      • Ms Gib, the problem with this mushroom is that I took the pic December 25th and had no idea that is was a bit rare. I forgot it until February when I began editing several batches of photos in Windows. When I thought it might make an interesting post I looked for it in Google to get the name. But then the mushroom was long gone.

        When I called the botany prof he said he did not know much about fungi since his speciality is plants. He said I would have to find a prof who was interested or whose field is fungi. He said there is one guy at Texas A & M but he did not know his name. After those words I did not have the energy to pursue getting it documented for my county. So, now I must concentrate on getting better and even that is an effort. Same food with no salt and it is boring but I eat with a very good appetite. Salt is a no-no for me and I used a teeny amount 2 days ago and now I am paying the price- so no salt ever again for me.

    • So sorry I did not answer your question. I’ve no idea if this mushroom is edible. I did not go back over the lit in Wikipedi. I am 99.% though, that it is not.

  4. For the first time, I am seeing star- shaped mushroom. Nice shot!!

  5. The Editors of Garden Variety says:

    How unusual and beautiful!

  6. The “Texas Star”, I like that. However, I think you should rename it the “Lone Star”. Just sayin’.

  7. Great find, Yvonne. Sometimes mushrooms return and sometimes not, so maybe you’ll have future visitations. But this is very cool. I think the picture is just fine. I’d submit it if you are so inclined. But if you do, there is always the possibility that others may wish to visit it next year should it return.

    • Hi Steve. Thanks for commenting. You’re right about the mushroom not returning again. I hope that it does. I spoke with a botany prof at Baylor U. today and he asked if I had saved the specimen. I said, “no, I had no idea that the mushroom was considered rare but I have an excellent photo.” Apparently one must have “physical” proof of its existence. Acutally, to me that means very little since in theory I could have plucked it from some other place. I told him I have proof of the cedar elm stump. He made not comment. I don’t think the science community snobs will accept my photo as part of a record even if this is a first recording for my county. He gave me his email address and I’ll send a pic to him. He said he’d “look it up.”

  8. Very cool find, I’ve never seen a mushroom like this before! Thanks for sharing this, Yvonne. I’m sure more people would love to see it too, so I hope you get it published elsewhere as well.

  9. chatou11 says:

    Well Yvonne you must have been surprised learning you have a rarity in your garden. I have never seen such a muschroom. It’s just like a flower! beautiful! thank you for all what I learned about it.

    • Hi Chantal. Yes, that little shroom is quite a looker. I don’t know how long it lasted for I did not go back to see what was going on with it. At the time I had no idea it was only found in a few places in Texas. I’ll be watching for it from now on and in fact I’ll put more water on that spot. :-)

  10. How interesting that you discovered this rare find. Never saw a mushroom that looks like that. Will you send it to the science community? Wouldn’t that be exciting if they do accept your photo!

    • Hi Paulette. Yes, I will see about getting it recorded for my county. Will first call a retired Baylor biologhy prof to get his take about it. Could be that it has already been put in some scinece paper for this county by someone at Baylor. But that is all ok by me. It was just something new to me for sure and gave me fodder for a post. :-)

  11. penpusherpen says:

    So, it’s your fault we’re getting so much water over the pond Yvonne, you’re leaving your hose pipe flowing :-) … Such a lovely looking pinkish star mushroom, ( Devils cigar sounds far too ominous) and you’re making history too being so rare. It’d be interesting to find out if you could be in the record Books.
    Hugs to Billy Bob, and to you of course. (goes without saying) :-) xxPenxx

  12. shoreacres says:

    What an absolute wonder,Yvonne! It’s a beautiful photo, and I think should be just fine for purposes of recording this critter’s existence. Some of the photos I’ve seen on plant sites aren’t any better than this, and many are much worse.

    You need to see if you can’t get it recorded somehow. That iNaturalist site sounds interesting. You ought to ask Steve Schwartzman about the process. He’s as plugged in as anyone I know, and has lots of connections at the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center, etc. I’ll bet he knows precisely the procedure to follow.

    I’ve been thinking about this myself, as I bumped into the map for agarita and saw that it isn’t listed as native in Kerr County. I know that it’s there, and I know that it’s native. I could walk right to some stands of the stuff that are on property that’s never been ranched or tilled, and that are about as far offroad as you can get. I just don’t know how to go about getting the county added to the list, and I’ve been thinking about exploring that.

    I just can’t get over how wonderful this is. Best of luck getting it recorded!

    • Thanks Linda for the good advice. But first I’m going to call a Baylor biology prof who is a brilliant man and knows about nature from A-Z. Good luck with the agarita. That is one wild shrub that I’ve always wanted. It grows here in a few places in McLennan county. It might be more prominent than the few that I’ve seen. Moslty I’ve seen it in roadside fence rows where it has not been destroyed by landowners. I’ve read that the berries make wonderful jam/jelly. I’ve wanted some for attracting birds. But is is a pretty little shrub if it has the right growing conditions and also affords good wildlife habitat.

  13. I’ve never seen a mushroom/fungi like that Yvonne. I would definitely investigate reporting the mushroom.

    • Mike I have to admit that it is an interesting one for sure. I was astounded when I found it on Christmas Day last year. I had totaly forgotten about it until I came across the pics when I began editing. I’m going to call a retired Baylor biology prof to ask him what he knows about Texas star- chorioactis geaster.

  14. Lottie Nevin says:

    My word, that is some shroom! How exciting, Yvonne. I can’t wait to hear more about whether you are the first to find this type of fungi in Texas. I’ve never seen anything like it, and it’s really quite beautiful. Andrew has sent you some splendid links, please keep us all in the loop about the results of your great find, I’m excited for you.
    And another thing, this just goes to show that ‘being away with the fairies’ isn’t such a bad thing. If you didn’t go off on your daydreaming and you didn’t have Billy Bob, this magnificent mushroom might never have been born. Well I never, this could make front page news! xxxxx

    • Lottie, thanks for commenting. However, I think you missed part of what I had written. The Texas star or Devil’s cigar is found in several counties (about 7-8) in Texas. IT JUST HAS NOT BEEN RECORDED IN MY COUNTY AS FAR AS I CAN DETERMINE. SO I am going to call one of the retired Baylor biology profs that I personally know and ask him about it.

      Now about those faries. I had no idea that Billy Bob has been living among the fairies and that I’ve been feeding them scraps for years. :-) I’ve dumped rotten figs, fermentedd plum juice, and all kinds of things from the fridge. I suppose it helped to feed the fungus there. It was right beside the old tree stump just what the literature says about Texas star. I’ve used that stump to place old fruit on to have a place to feed the butterflies that like fermented fruit.

      I believe the mushroom has been there for at least several years or more since that tree was felled about 10-12 years ago. It had been severely damaged in a rain storm. I always leave stumps. It’s a natural thing to do since the rotting wood is good for the soil. And it gives the humans around a place to sit. I just had never been at the spot at the right time to see it before last Christmas Day.

      • Lottie Nevin says:

        Ah, sorry, my fault Yvonne. Yes, I realise now my mistake, Sorry. It’s still a great find though.

      • Dear Lottie, you are not at fault. I’ve done the same thing of reading too hastily or not carefully, or whatever the case might be. I put my reply in bold letters for I wanted to make sure that you understand it is maybe rare in my county. I now have the name of a Baylor botany prof and will call the biology department today and ask to speak with him. I hope he will speak with me since I’m sure he is teaching most of the day. The wife of the former head of the biology department give me the profs name. I’m not really expecting to find out much.

  15. Can you imagine the bragging rights for having the first Texas Star for your county!

    • Hello and how nice to see your comment. I don’t know about bragging rights for it would be just my luck that someone decides to steal my photo. I surely hope that does not happen. But I still do not know for sure if this mushroom might have been seen by someone else and it just is not in Wikipedia yet or some science journal. I have looked on the Internet in many places and did not find anything so maybe it is a “recorded first.”

  16. Andrew says:

    Very good find Yvonne. Why would it not be accepted? There is a site called iNaturalist where you can post your records. If they are validated by an expert they become ‘research grade’. It’s a fascinating mushroom. Never seen anything like it. I guess we have to thank Billy Bob too.

  17. A great photo and a rarity. Perhaps you could send it to some expert on mushrooms.

  18. TexWisGirl says:

    very, VERY cool! haven’t heard of these before (and since they’re rare, i’m not surprised!)

    • Theresa if you have any old stumps of Cedar Elms start looking.The literature says these are found in northeast Texas as well. Don’t know what county you live in but the counties are listed in Wikipedia.

  19. sybil says:

    You should definitely follow up and contact the appropriate folk. I have found some shells that turned out to be perhaps as old as 2,000 years and shared them with a thrilled researcher at the local university. On another occasion when I found some very strange looking “hair ice”, I sent photos to a researcher in the U.S. who said I was the first case he’d heard of on the eastern seaboard. And then you know what happened when I found that dead white-sided dolphin. I ended up getting to watch a partial necropsy. Ordinary folk can make a difference.

    Now, off you go and let someone know what you’ve found.

    I’ll wait here until you get back to us.

    P.S. Isn’t it wonderful that your looking around at nature and slopping water for Billy Bob lead to such a special rarity.

    • Thanks for the advice, Sybil. Yes, you do indeed find some interesting things on your walks with Trey and Wendy. I must have missed that post about hair ice. Now I will have to look that up in wiki.

      Yep to think I owe the find to my goat. He is a character. Mean as they come even though he is not a spring chicken.

  20. Just Rod says:

    What a beautiful shroom. You should definitely submit it for the records – looks like a fine photo for identification – it seems a pretty distinctive variety. Thanks for all the information. I hope Billy Bob is getting enough water.

    • Thanks Rod, I hope the pic is good enough. That was the best that I could do with the equipment I have.

      For sure, Billy Bob REALLY gets his share. I let the water run so long that sometimes the gravel driveway is soaked. I really must get more attentive when doing my chores. But I am so tempted by curious sounds, movememnt, color, and the like that I get easily distracted and there goes the water and some of my other chores are left undone until I remember to stop looking in trees, and so on.

      • Just Rod says:

        Hee hee hee, as I get older my distractions seem to grow. I have the attention span of a gnat! Where is the tea? Susan asked – Oh, was that what I was doing? But I saw a butterfly (iguana, parakeet, Frigate Bird, whale, twig…) :D

      • Rod, I don’t believe for a minute that you have the attention span of a gnat. However, after reading that you have a similar problem, I am somewhat relieved. Could it be that we are just too interested in what is going on around us? I prefer to think that our attention span has more to do with our curiosity after the natural world and people, and birds, and dogs and cats, and gnats. And, yes that twig that you mentioned. :-)

        I’ve always called myself a lame brain but I do pay attention to detail. That is one thing that I’m good about. Now don’t go looking for all my typos and spelling errors. :-)

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