I’ve been wanting to see an earthstar ever since I saw photos in a field guide. What a romantic name! And this one was on my property last week during the rain.
Earthstars are in the same taxonomic group as puffballs and some truffle-like fungi. They start out looking like a puffball, then the outer layer splits, revealing the inner sphere that holds the spores.
The powdery spore mass is puffed out of the central hole (seen below) at maturity, usually by the impact of raindrops.
A 5c piece (aka ‘echidna’, beloved of fungi researchers) indicates size. The white thing on the top right is the egg sac of a spider. I don’t know whether the actual spider on it is a hatchling or not, as I didn’t see any others or witness the hatching. The egg sac actually looks like that of a huntsman, but the tiny spider doesn’t look like a huntsman. Perhaps it was eating the babies, or just passing by. The photo below was taken a couple of days after the ones above, and you can see the effects of ageing on the earthstar.
An Aseroe rubra, starfish fungus, was nearby, with flies happily gobbling up the slime that contains the spores. This one also starts off looking like a puffball, which ruptures to produce the final shape. The spores are carried by the fly to another Aseroe and pooped out onto it, ‘pollinating’ it. This one wasn’t stinky, at least to me, but it must have been enough for the flies to be attracted.