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Chorioactis geaster

Chorioactis is a genus of fungus that contains the single species Chorioactis geaster, an extremely rare mushroom found only in select locales in Texas and Japan. In the former, it is commonly known as the "devil's cigar" or the "Texas star"; in Japan it is called kirinomitake. It is notable for its unusual appearance. The fruit body, which grows on the stumps or dead roots of cedar elms (in Texas) or dead oaks (in Japan), somewhat resembles a dark brown or black cigar before it splits open radially into a starlike arrangement of four to seven leathery rays. The interior surface of the fruit body bears the spore-bearing tissue, and is colored white to brown, depending on its age. Fruit body opening can be accompanied by a distinct hissing sound and the release of a smoky cloud of spores. Fruit bodies were first collected in Austin, Texas, and the species was named Urnula geaster in 1893; it was later found in Kyushu in 1937, but the mushroom was not reported again in Japan until 1973. Although the new genus Chorioactis was proposed to accommodate the unique species a few years after its original discovery, it was not until 1968 that it was accepted as a valid genus. (Full article...)

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Fantine, a character in Victor Hugo's novel Les Misérables, in an 1886 painting by Margaret Bernadine Hall. In the novel, Fantine is a young orphan girl who is impregnated by a rich student, who then abandons her and their child Cosette. Forced by her poverty to become a prostitute, Fantine sacrifices her youth, beauty, and health in order to raise her daughter. After she dies, Cosette is raised by Jean Valjean.

Fantine has been described as the "quintessential mother" whose sacrifice serves the good of her child, and identified with "the saved and saintly prostitute". She has been depicted in numerous adaptations of the novel, including the musical and the 2012 film (in which she was portrayed by Anne Hathaway).

Painting: Margaret Bernadine Hall

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