White balls in the Wood! – Common Puffball

A few days earlier I had found the lovely Meadow Puffball, and now after a visit to the woods I find a nice collective group of Common Puffballs (Lycoperdon perlatum).

They’re mainly found in groups growing on the ground in open woodland among leaf litter, and sometimes in pastures. These particular puffballs were found at the edge of the car park growing in the soil. It was a pleasant surprise and added bonus as I made my way back to my car. If you take time to look around further you may also see some earthballs hanging around too – although they’re not really good eats at all!

Common PuffballIf you find these young beauties before they open up and release their spores, gently prize one out of the ground. Laying it down you will see that it has an ‘up-side-down pear’ shape. The main upper fruit body is rounded and the narrower lower part tapers off slightly. Some specimens can grow quite large up from the ground and some appear smaller with the thinner, lower body (stem, if you like) obscured from view, showing just a ‘ball’ shape.

The texture is very distinctive for identifying this fungus. There are many small nodules covering the surface with larger conical/pointed spikes spread uniformly across it’s surface.

The young specimen will be white with these light-brown spikes. Inside will be nice and white too. They’re quite nice to eat, usually sliced and fried up with an omelette or whatever you fancy. Problem is though, the skin can be a little tough so you must have the patience in peeling!

As it grows older the colour changes to a dull brown and a hole at the top opens up to release it’s spores. Raindrops, wind or movement from a passing animal cause the open sack to ‘puff’ out its contents in a fine cloud of brown powder. If you ever see one lying around in this state (and it isn’t yet empty), give it a little tap with your finger. Pooof! Great fun – even if a little short lived.

One little note I think I ought to make. Small white ball or ‘egg-shaped’ fungi can also be other poisonous toadstools in early development. For example the Death Cap starts life in a small white egg sack. I know it’s a little different to our young Common Puffball, but it’s just something to bear in mind. Be safe out there kids!

P.S. Also see – The Spiny Puffball and the Meadow Puffball.

Common Puffball

Young, white Common Puffballs growing amongst leaf litter in and around Woodland

Large white Puffballs

Larger examples of the Common Puffball – growing up to 9cm high

The PUFFBALLS/EARTHBALLS & ALLIES (Stomach fungi): Characteristics to look out for:

• Main fruting body is ball shaped, irregular or pedicel shaped. Broken or split at maturity to release spores
• Interior of fruiting body full of gleba (spores); solid when young, as a powder at maturity.
• Often small or no visible stem.

9 replies
  1. J C Harris
    J C Harris says:

    While out mushrooming this early October I met a keen amateur, just like myself but still a little rusty on identification as he’d not being doing it for long. What he thought were puffballs of some kind were actually the egg sacks of Stinkhorns. One was cracking slightly, showing the sticky yellow fluid which gave it away. Although edible when in a young state (but not cracking open), care must be taken in identification as some egg sacks like this contain poisonous mushrooms – like a young developing Death Cap for example.

    Reply
  2. Marianne
    Marianne says:

    Thanks much for the excellent photos and conversations!
    I’m going to slice, saute and enjoy my young, white puffball, now that I am assured it’s what I thought!

    Best,

    Autumn blessings,

    Marianne

    Reply

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] Mushroom Diary blog has some great posts describing Puffballs and Earthballs such as this one on Common Puffballs. So, once again, here’s some photos but no identification in case I’m […]

  2. […] for further pictures and descriptions of these I direct you to John Harris’ excellent blog The Mushroom Diary. Their tastes are all much of a muchness, The Stump Puffball: pear-shaped, and decidedly browner […]

  3. […] that it’s covered in many tiny spines or spikes. These are finer and less pyramidal than the Common Puffball and naturally a different colour. After time some of these spines can become detached from the main […]

  4. Similar smooth white ball – The post: White balls near the Wood! The Common Puffball…

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