Common Earthball, Scleroderma citrinum, has ‘a characteristic smell of old rubber’ according to Wildlife of Britain, the Definitive Visual Guide or strong odour ‘of gas or acetylene’ (Encyclopedia of Fungi, Michael Jordan). As I’ve mentioned before, this didn’t stop me from slicing the young ones, with firm white flesh, and frying them in a bit of butter when I was trying to survive on a very slender travelling scholarship on a student field trip to Iceland. To me, they tasted of mushroom, but I don’t recommend that you try them, as they’re variously described as inedible or even poisonous.
These were growing by the path in deciduous woodland at the top end of the Pleasure Grounds at Nostell Priory Park.
National Trust, Nostell
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.