Documenting Local Biodiversity: Family Pyronemataceae (maybe)
No, it’s a fungus and a very weird looking one. This weird fungus might be a member of the Pyronemataceae, a family in the Phylum Ascomycota. Pyronemataceae is a large and diverse family that includes the well-known truffles and the false morels among others. Many are ectomycorrhizal symbionts with trees such as pines, oaks, and chestnuts.
The fungus (the fruiting body of the fungus, actually) measures about six inches in diameter. The form is tuberous and its shape is globular. Coloration of the skin is light brown with smaller regions of dark brown or rusty-brown. The surface is convoluted and covered with short stiff hairs. Judging from what little was visible through the tears in the skin the fungus appears to have a light colored, convoluted interior that is also covered in short stiff hairs.
I haven’t identified this fungus to species and even the family might be wrong. Assuming it is in Pyronemataceae I have tentatively narrowed it down to a few genera. Two good candidates are Geopora and Hydnocystis. Another possibility is Hydnotrya in the family Pezizomycetidae. Of course it may not be any of them especially since these fungi are supposed to produce subterranean fruiting bodies although Hydnotrya may sometimes emerge above ground. It may not even belong to Pyronemataceae or Pezizomycetidae. More information is needed.
To learn more I will be going back to the spot where I found it last week and get a better look if it is still there. To be continued if I am successful in re-locating this or others of its kind.