We had a request to do fungi a couple of posts back and so yesterday Fizz and I set out on a Fungi Foray.
This one is Scleroderma citrinum, another name for it is the Common Earthball.
I set off to explore a derelict Sweet Chestnut Coppice. There are a lot of fallen trees and rotting wood and given the time of year and the recent rain I felt that I had a good chance of finding something exciting.
I took with me an experienced Truffle Hound. (Well, the best that I could find at short notice)
It is very difficult to mistake this for an edible puffball which has a white or creamy white centre whilst this one is quite black in the middle.
It is composed of a very thick skin with spores inside and that is about it.
As the Earthball Matures the spores inside turn to dust and then the skin splits and the spores are carried away on the wind.
Some people like to stamp on them and see the dark cloud of spores engulf their feet, that is fine, it is just what the mushroom intended to do any way but I would recommend being at least six foot tall. The further your mouth is from the spores the better your chances of not embarrassing yourself later in the day or experiencing discomfort.
I trod on a couple yesterday, quite accidentally and had to go to pains to steer Fizz around the cloud that appeared as a result of my clumsiness.
The Common Earthball has no stem, it is attached to the ground by the white threads of the mycelium.
There is another fungi that exists as a parasite on the Common Earthball called pseudoboletus parasiticus. It is very rare and can only exist in the company of Earthballs. It looks like this.
The thick skin of these fungi breaks down slowly after the spores have been released and it is common to find these empty yellow skins quite late in the winter.
So what is it doing in the forest. Well it is a mycorrhizal fungi and that means that it has a symbiotic relationship with the trees in the forest. The fungi connects with the roots of trees and exchanges water and minerals in return for carbohydrates. Both the tree and the fungus benefit from this relationship.
Now I can not find this written down anywhere but I feel sure that it must also have a role in breaking down dead wood as I very often find the fruits emerging from rotting wood.
That is the Common Earthball, Scleroderma citrinum.