Posts

Pointed & Puffy! – The Spiny Puffball

I have a good gauge for the start of the mushroom season in the UK* – and that is my birthday! Well, the birth month anyway. Mushrooms grow all year round, but they are never so much in abundance and variety until the beginning of September. It’s technically still summer, but I can sense the autumn changes already in the wind (and rain of course)! So when people say ‘When does the mushroom season begin?’ I always say – ‘You can’t go wrong from September to November, get yourselves out there for the best pickings…’

Spiny Puffball (Lycoperdon echinatum)I especially notice the puffballs first. I don’t know if this just a Leicestershire thing, but I always find them in abundance, on grass or in woodland, keen to get going. As I walked in the woods today I found at least three different types of woodland puffball without really having to look that hard. They really like to get started early!

I chose to feature the Spiny Puffball (Lycoperdon echinatum) because I hadn’t taken pictures of it before. It’s a great looking and slightly unusual member of the puffball family. Often hidden from view, it blends in very well with the undergrowth (depending on their age). They start off white but soon turn to neutral brown colour, although the short stem can remain white for longer.

It’s most noticeable feature of course is 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 body, leaving a cellular-like pattern, usually before the puffball opens up at the top to disperse it’s spores. Unfortunately I have no current example in the photos shown here.

Dimensions are also similar to the Common Puffball except for the shorter stem, and live in a similar environment. The Spiny Puffball prefers deciduous woods (and sometimes heaths) whereas the Common Puffball is in any type of woodland (deciduous or coniferous).

The young inner flesh looks quite nice, but this puffball is unfortunately classed as inedible, and I don’t know why. Perhaps the taste is disagreeable and unpleasant. I really didn’t feel like trying. There’s plenty more edible mushrooms on the way.

Let the season begin…

Round spiny puffballs

Spiny Puffballs / Cross section of young white flesh which matures purple-brown

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

*In the US (Pennsylvania) a popular mushroom festival coincidentally started this year on my birthday! (http://www.mushroomfestival.org/). If you’re over near that way, it’s definitely worth a look.

Spots before my eyes – Coral Spot Fungus

Although tiny (0.5 – 1.0mm) the orange fruit bodies of the Coral Spot (Nectria cinnabarina) grow in their hundreds mainly on small dead twigs and branches (wood piles etc.). Even if you’re no mycophile, not many wood walking people can say they haven’t noticed these little critters blossoming just about everywhere throughout the year. And myself, as a fan of all thing fungal just had to know what they were. So now we know.

One mushroom guide I have noted that the ‘non-sexual’ form is the most common found, as in these pictures shown below. The ‘true’ sexual form is dark red/red-brown which has a bumpy surface and both forms usually grow together. We’re getting into the sexual side of things I know – and don’t ask me too much on this subject, I’m still getting my head round the other mysteries of mushrooms!

Anyway. Here’s the picture. You know you’ve seen them before don’t you!? Note: This shot was taken in November 2009.

Coral Spot

Look out for these common orange spots in the woods anytime.

One last thought – I know Coral Spot is classed as inedible, mainly due to them being insubstantial (I believe). But imagine if you will, what if somebody took the time and collected thousands of them, just enough for a good portion – what would it really taste like? I’ve read elsewhere that it’s taste and odour have no distinction – but I think if you really had a munch on a big batch of the stuff, you might get a different result!

Well, maybe not! Just a thought.