COMMON EARTHBALL fungus grows in woodland and heathland sometimes on its own but often ‘in small, trooping ± tufted groups’ as Stefan Buczacki explains in the new Collins Fungi Guide. ‘Trooping’ means that they’re growing close to each other but are physically separate, ‘tufted’ means that they grow from the same base.
He describes the fruiting bodies as covered in ‘coarse brown scales or low pyramidal warts’ and you can see from my drawing that the texture varies amongst this group.
The older one (top) has burst open at the apex, revealing the dark brown spores inside.
They were growing on the grassy verge of a track through the plantations at Newmillerdam. I photographed them, then drew from the photograph but I do hope I’ll be able to make time to draw on location before too long.
Buczacki describes the Common Earthball as ‘possibly poisonous’ but it really depends on how hungry you are. I ate young specimens when I was in Iceland living in a one-man tent at Lake Myvatn for 4 weeks on a stretched to the limit Minor Travelling award from the Royal College of Art. The flesh is whitish at first and I thought that it smelt of mushrooms.
Delicious fried in butter. But probably poisonous. You have been warned.