Chorioactis Geaster, better known as Devil’s Cigar, is an incredibly rare mushroom. Because of this and the family it comes from, most people advise not eating it. There haven’t been enough studies conducted on this fungus to understand its toxicity and no one knows if there are possible health risks.
Where can you find Devil’s Cigar?
There are only two places in the world where you can find Devil’s Cigar: Texas and Japan. They both sit on the same line of latitude. But no one can yet explain why this is. While Texas and Japan are the places to find this mushroom, the Devil’s Cigar appeared in Oklahoma in 2017. This is the only sighting within the United States outside Texas.
They grow on or nearby roots of cedar or elm in Texas. But, in Japan, they prefer oak trees. Regardless of the location, they can be individual specimens or develop as a cluster.
Is there a difference between the Devil’s Cigar in Texas versus Japan?
Even though this fungus is the same species in both Texas and Japan, they have some genetic deviations. From what researchers surmise, there was a change between the two 19 million years ago. This is obvious in the trees they prefer to frequent.
Ones in Texas grow after massive flooding. The Japanese versions, on the other hand, have only survived under controlled artificial conditions.
When can you see Chorioactis Geaster?
Of the two places you can find this fungus, they seem to appear most often between October and April. They tend to adore cooler weather with a fair amount of moisture.
What does a Devil’s Cigar Look Like?
As the name suggests, the Devil’s Cigar looks like a dark brown or black cigar. When it first comes through to the surface, it looks like a hollowed out club-shaped stick. When they eventually split to release spores, they take on a star-like appearance having anywhere from four to seven points.
It looks like an exploding cigar from classic cartoons. This is why they have the additional moniker as the Texas Star, especially when the mushroom breaks into five points.
Spore Features & Function
The spores and how they release are one of the Devil’s Cigar’s most notable features. They sit on the interior surface of the fruiting body that has a white or brown color.
The stem stays buried in the ground and is shorter than the hollowed out fruit of the body. However, the stem size can vary depending on the depth of the root. The stem’s flesh is also a white color that turns browner as it matures. Soft, velvety brown hairs cover the stem and fruit.
How do Devil’s Cigars reproduce?
These fungi have asexual reproduction via the mature spores. Over the course of its development, the Devil’s Cigar will burgeon with spores and pressure. When ready, they slowly break open and release a sort of hissing noise along with a smoky veil of spores. Once dispersed, the wind carries them away.
Is a Chorioactis Geaster easy to find?
The Devil’s Cigar is an incredibly rare mushroom. Even in the places where you can find them, it’s not often they make an appearance. Most mushrooms have specific requirements in order to flourish forth from their growing medium. Chorioactis Geaster is even more particular in this regard.
What should I do if a Devil’s Cigar is growing on my property?
Since we don’t know for certain whether this mushroom is poisonous or not, it’s best to be safe and get rid of it. This will be especially true if you have concerns about children or pets playing nearby. How you remove these will depend on whether you see a single individual or a whole patch.
For single mushrooms, put on a pair of gloves and remove it by hand. Put it in a sealable garbage bag, close it tightly and place it in the weekly trash. Then take some baking soda, horticulture vinegar or both and pour these over the area from where you pulled the mushroom.
In the case you have a patch, don’t mow over it unless you have a catch. This will disperse the mushrooms all over your yard and will defeat the purpose of protecting pets and children. You can use a commercial fungicide product or try to expose them to more heat and light, if possible.
Leaving Them Be
Of course, if children or pets aren’t an issue, you could just leave the mushrooms alone. Since they don’t appear often, they aren’t hurting anything or robbing nearby plants and flowers of nutrients. As a matter of fact, it’s a sign you have healthy, fertile soil.
What should I do if someone accidentally ate or touched a Devil’s Cigar?
In the case that someone accidentally eats or touches a Devil’s Cigar with bare hands, you must be proactive about it. First, determine if the mushroom has split open to release the spores.
If it’s still intact, then simply observe the person or pet that ate/touched it. Monitor for rashes, reactions and signs of poisoning. The moment you sense something is off, get emergency medical care right away.
However, if the mushroom has released its spores with a display of several points, it’s best to seek immediate medical care. Don’t allow the person to drink any water either, this may have the potential to increase toxicity.
In the Presence of Opening
When someone is in the presence of a Devil’s Cigar opening to release the spores, monitor them. Pay attention for things like skin rashes, lethargy, vomiting, nausea and irregular digestive issues.
Some Good News
All these precautions aside, it’s important to understand that there are no reports of poisoning or sickness. We don’t know if this has ever occurred from coming into contact with it. Because the information we have about this fungus is scant, it’s better to treat the situation as a deadly poisonous mushroom.