Useful for a variety of important functions, Star Mushrooms are symbiotic with Trees of Life
The Star Mushroom is a parasitic fungal species that grows exclusively on the bark of Trees of Life. They are easily recognized by their smooth blue translucent surface, their eerie bioluminescent blue or green glow, and most significantly, their enormous size. A typical mature mushroom in a given fungus is roughly the size of a stack of townhouses; and indeed, creatures often hollow them out and make homes for themselves. This seems to have no detrimental effect on the mushroom, although such homes are, by nature, somewhat temporary, as the mushroom dies when its spores are released. However, as long as the fungal mass remains intact, another mushroom will soon sprout nearby when the conditions are right.
Content Warning: Mention of Psychoactive Drugs
As the egg expands, the universal veil ruptures and remains as a cup (5) at the base of the stalk. A second layer of tissue, the partial veil, covers the bladelike gills (2) that bear spores. The partial veil breaks when the cap (1) expands, and remnants of the veil may remain as a ring (3) around the middle of the stalk or as fragments hanging from the edge of the cap. The stalk (4) (also called the stipe, or stem) is central and supports the cap in the middle. The mushroom gills begin attached to the top of the stalk, but as the mushroom matures, they become detached, like on a puffball mushroom, and the cap can be easily removed without damaging the stalk. Since the flesh of a Star Mushroom is thicker and denser than smaller mushrooms, it does not have the same fragile texture. Instead, the Star Mushroom feels more like thick boiled leather when encountered in the wild. This is probably necessary to support its enormous size.
Genetics and Reproduction
Like most mushrooms, Star Mushrooms reproduce by creating a fruiting body -- the part that we think of as being the actual "mushroom" -- which bursts to spray the surrounding area with spores. These spores can spread over vast distances in space. The fruiting body is triggered to erupt by a sudden shower of solar or cosmic radiation, likely because this increases the chances that the spores will be carried over a greater distance through space by the cosmic winds. A unique benefit of being a parasitic species of Trees of Life is that spores can also embed themselves into the hexagonal stigmas and stamens of a Starseed or Starseed ship. Thus, when a male Starseed travels the Airts, he often inadvertently spreads Star Mushroom spores in addition to his pollen; and a female Starseed, when she takes root, already has Star Mushroom spores ready to hand, to begin growing on her bark when she becomes a tree. Star Mushroom spores, despite the size of the adult fungus, still propagate as microscopic particles, resembling blue-glowing dust or pollen in aggregate.
Growth Rate & Stages
A Star Mushroom begins life as a blue-glowing spore that takes root in the bark of a Tree of Life. Over time, these spores grow into a complex web of filaments, known as the universal veil. These filaments appear first as a glowing blue coating over the surface of the tree's bark, perhaps glistening through a carpet of Cosmic Moss, but over time, they expand to large, visible veins of luminscent electric blue, weaving through the bark's cracks and rough patches. Eventually, a light blue button, about the size and shape of an ottoman or large pillow, begins to develop in the veil. The button glows a bioluminescent green in dim light or darkness. This sprouts into a fruiting body that becomes the "mushroom" part.
An immature fruiting body still gives off a green glow, signifying its undeveloped state. Its stalk is spindly by comparison to the adult growth, with an oversized, flat cap. Green glowing bodies produce immature green glowing spores. As the mushroom matures, its stalk thickens, and its crown curves down towards the surface of the tree, becoming gradually more conical. Its natural bioluminescence also shifts from green to blue. A fully mature Star Mushroom will have an almost spherical, translucent blue crown, and a thick green-blue stalk, with a bright blue bioluminescent glow. This stable structure can be shaped into a small dwelling without harming the fruiting body. When triggered by solar radiation, the mature body bursts, showering the area and ambient space with its spores. This usually takes a few decades, once the fruiting body is mature, and is signified when the mushroom develops a pulpy texture and ragged edges on its crown. Ideally, spores are carried by the solar wind into the Void, or they are carried off by nearby Starseeds when they break free from the Tree of Life. This cycle can span centuries or even millennia, with a variety of factors, such as solar winds, celestial orbit, ambient radiation, or the proximity of nearby Starseeds, affecting fungal development. As long as the universal veil remains undamaged, the mushroom itself can live for eons; perhaps as long as the Tree on which it grows. New fruiting bodies will mature and burst over time. It is likely that the fungal body will not normally die until the Tree of Life itself does.
Immature Star Mushrooms by Rainforest World
Ecology and Habitats
Star Mushrooms grow exclusively on the bark of Trees of Life. They will grow in atmosphere on immature trees, but do not usually produce fruiting bodies until the tree is fully mature.
People who live among Star Mushrooms often carefully collect their spores for recreational, medical, magical, or commercial purposes.
Uses, Products & Exploitation
The spores of an immature Star Mushroom, distinguished by their green bioluminescence, are hallucinogenic and euphoric, containing a psilocybin compound. Beings throughout Known Space use them for religious rites, seeking visions, and recreation. They may be used in some variations of Sylsani (Feywine) for their euphoric effect, especially among the Sluagh. Green spores are contraband in most spaceport cities. tinctures to cure radiation poisoning. Beings and animals living among mature Star Mushrooms naturally have an extremely high radiation tolerance, simply from inhaling and accidentally ingesting the spores in their ambient environment. Fruiting bodies often emerge several kilometers from each other, and immature mushroom bodies are unsuited to natural housing due to their spindly stalks, so they are typically avoided, except by farmers, mystics, and thrill-seekers. Immature fruiting bodies do not burst, but their spores do drift over the immediate area. While the flesh of the mushroom is edible, the challenge of eating something with the texture of boiled leather deters all but the truly desperate or adventurous. However, if sliced into pieces and boiled for several hours, the mushroom can make a bitter, nourishing stew. Cooking destroys psilocybin compounds, so this is not a good way to experience the mushroom's recreational or mystical properties. It does, however, continue to impart an increased resistance to radiation. Spoiler from Book 3: Brothers in Arms
"There better be potions," he mumbled, spitting out a bit more blood and slime. It looked like he might not even make it back to the Sword of Courage at this rate. And of course, this was assuming they were going in the direction he assumed they would--back home. Maybe they had chosen to go somewhere else. He finally found the manifest exactly where it was supposed to be; clipped to the wall. He had to bring the lantern right up to it to see it properly. He almost swooned in relief when he saw it, appropriately listed under "Medical Supplies". Crate #1074:
"Two each for a full crew," he sighed in relief. That was good. It had just occurred to him that the whole ship might be contaminated, and he might have to take them for a few days while the spindizzy slowly worked the contamination out of the ship. Shaundar weaved his way over to the crate in question with a crowbar. He had no strength in his limbs. It took him way longer than it should have to pry it open. He had to work slowly, first at one corner, then another, then a third, and so on, until finally the nails tore free with a squeak. He grabbed one of each and knocked them back. The first one tasted like peppermint and willow bark. The second tasted like dry powder and something bitter, and it glowed faintly blue. The third tasted like fresh spring water and radiated a faint silver glow. Warm and cool sensations flooded through his body in waves. Suddenly he was too exhausted to keep his eyes open anymore. I'll just rest right here for a moment, he thought, and then he didn't think about anything else for some time.
- (24) Healing Potions
- (24) Anti-Toxin Potions
- (24) Curing Potions--Brothers in Arms by Diane Morrison
Symbiotic and Parasitic organisms
Gnomes, Elves, and Ratatosk , choose to make their homes in Star Mushrooms. Jewel Bugs, attracted by the bioluminescence, help spread spores; as do sentient inhabitants. Some bird species might also choose to nest in a previously hollowed-out dwelling, but will not make habitats of their own.
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Star Mushroom Spore Burst
Video by Oleg Gamulinskiy
Video by Oleg Gamulinskiy
Psilocybe Praegrandis Astra
- Eons for the universal veil (the organism itself)
- Several decades for a given "mushroom" (fruiting body of the organism)
Fruiting bodies reach an average height of about 20 meters, or somewhere between 60-70 feet
Roughly 120 kg or 300 lbs per fruiting body
- Fruiting Body -- 3 meters or 10 feet diameter
- Cap -- About 5 meters or 16 feet diameter
- Organism -- up to thousands of km
Tree of Life (Starseed)
Species | Mar 23, 2021
Trees of Life are often so vast they become worlds of their own, and their Starseeds are the ships that made space travel possible.