Updated: Mar 11, 2021
Chorioactis is an extremely rare fungus that grows exclusively in 3 counties in northern Texas, Oklahoma, and in a small area in southern Japan. This fungus goes by many names, including Devil’s Cigar, Texas star, and Kironomitaki.
This fungus has a very interesting structure. It belongs to the earth star family, meaning that it is a spherical shape with sharp leaflets protruding out from under it. These leaflets eventually turn into cylindrical black spore pods which release microscopic spores into the soil and air.
FUNGAL FUN FACT:
The devil’s cigar makes a loud hissing noise when it releases its spores. There is a legend among old Texan mushroom hunters that if you hear the legendary but extremely rare hiss of a devil’s cigar, you will forever have good luck for the rest of your days. While the fungus is hissing and releasing its spores, it also lets out a cloud of smoke, which is also a rare occurrence in fungi. The Japanese, Texan, and Oklahoma Devil's cigar are all variants of each that separated roughly 19 million years ago, hence why they grow in similar environments but are not near each other.
The devil’s cigar is extremely endangered due to it’s very small range and its specific living requirements. In Japan, it mostly lives at the base of oak trees, but massive deforestation threatens their habitat. The Japanese variant is the only chorioactis to live in a controlled environment. In Texas, they have a little better time surviving, but industrialization in general has been bad for them, as their natural host, the cedar elm, is becoming more and more rare in Texas. If you want to help save this mushroom, if you ever find yourself in Japan consider planting an oak trees, or donate to the fungal conservation program and the IUCN endangered species fund.
Da fun gi signing off. See you next month my botanical buddies.
Written by — Julian Jensen