earthstar with spore sac crushed by snow

First Earthstars of 2024

The best thing to do after a snowmelt is hike.

There are earthstars to be found! The creeks will be loud and laughing with snowmelt, and jellies abound.

I do this every year—hike out for earthstars after the snow melts—and every year the treasure hunt delights me. It’s just as wonderful as counting bees in the seep, or hunting for wild ginger blooms, or jacks-in-the-pulpit, but this is one of the few treasure hunts I get to do in wintertime.

Jellies are always good to find (year-round) after a rain or snowmelt, and I collected this stick with several brown jellies for my little forest offering.

brown jellies, usnea, oak gall, snail shells, lichen and moss offering
brown jellies, usnea, oak gall, snail shells, lichen and moss offering

There’s also usnea (top), an oak gall (with a hole where the gall wasp has found its way out), some snail shells, and a piece of bark covered with lichens and mosses.

But of course, the stars—quite literally—of the show were the earthstars. (I overuse that metaphor, but I can’t seem to help myself.)

earthstar with spore sac crushed by snow
earthstar with spore sac crushed by snow

This first Astraeus hygrometricus we found was beautiful, although its spore sac looked like it had been crushed down by the snow. I’m guessing it opened a bit too soon during the last sequence of snows? It was still lovely, and I’m guessing those spores will find their way into good soil.

When you find one earthstar, you can usually find more nearby, so Lance and I looked until we found the next one.

Look at that spore sac! So puffy and full of tiny earthstar promises!

earthstar
earthstar

We actually found a third barometer earthstar as well, although I think it was one of last year’s, and was entirely blackened. It will re-enter the cycle as winter ends and spring arrives.

There are also new hepatica leaves everywhere. I photographed this one with a handful of hickory nuts that found their way into my pockets during our hike.

(I also found a trio of Hershey Kisses in my pocket that I’d forgotten about, and Lance said I should put them in the photo but I didn’t. However, they did get eaten.)

new hepatica leaves with hickory nuts
new hepatica leaves with hickory nuts

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