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Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Sunday - November 08, 2009

From: Westlake Hills, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Rare or Endangered Plants
Title: How rare is the Devil's Cigar Fungus (Chorioactis geaster)?
Answered by: Nan Hampton and Megan Murphy

QUESTION:

I have found a fungus called devil's cigar in the woods behind my house in Westlake Hills Texas. I read that it is rare. Is it considered rare even to Central Texas? If so, do I need to let someone know I found it as an endangered species or maybe a plant specialist would just like to see it. Who should I contact if necessary? Thanks for your time!

ANSWER:

Our focus and expertise here at the Wildflower Center are with native vascular plants and the fungi don't really fit into that description. However, Mr. Smarty Plants and his friends do know a little about this particular fungus,  Chorioactis geaster (devil's cigar).  It is rare in that it is only found in a few places in the world—Japan is one of them and Texas is the other.  It was, in fact, first found in Austin in 1893. That isn't to say that it is a very common sight in Central Texas, but one of us has seen one in her yard and we know other people who have also seen them. They reportedly make a  “hissing” sound when they release their spores, but we haven't heard it.  In 1997 it was proposed that this mushroom be designated as the the State Fungus of Texas.  However, the effort has evidently not yet been successful since there is no designated State Fungus of Texas. 

If you would like to contact a real mushroom expert,  the best mushroom resource we know of is Sue Metzler (her contact information is under Houston, Texas on this link).  She (literally) wrote the book on Texas mushrooms (Texas Mushrooms: A Field Guide by Sue and Van Metzler).  

 

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