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Where can I get a I get a gold flower for my "touch" item storage? (I'd like to take one to a specific level to investigate a secret.)

But even when I finish a level with a gold flower as my active item, it turns into a fire flower when I got back to the map.

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Gold Flowers that are obtained within stages always expire at the end of that stage. The exception to that rule is Gold Flowers retrieved from Star Toad Houses, which are automatically deposited into your lower screen's inventory when you visit that Toad House. Star Toad Houses are the yellow Toad Houses that you see on the overworld map, contrasting the green and red Toad houses.

If you are playing Coin Rush mode, you always get one Gold Flower in your inventory to use at your own discretion. It expires at the end of the level you activate it on, if you don't lose it before then.

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Do the toad houses ever re-populate with goodies? –  KatieK Jun 24 '13 at 4:15
    
Yes, but I'm not sure how this repopulation behaves. The other answer suggests that Toad Houses stay on the map permanently after completing Star World, but I have a save with Star World complete and this does not appear to exactly be the case. I just went through and replayed Star World castle, and that did not cause the Toad Houses that I cleared to answer this question to respawn either. I think they did the first time I beat it, though. –  Hyper Anthony Jun 24 '13 at 4:43
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Getting to a Star Toad House (the yellow ones) will give you a Gold Flower.

Completing all the levels in World Star causes Toad Houses to stay on the map permanently so you can access them at any time.

You can also stuff a Gold Flower into your inventory if you collect a Mega Mushroom or an Invincibility Leaf while gold. Then all you have to do is finish the level.

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