Staying local

In the first lockdown it was revealing just how much nature was all around me. I didn’t need to spend ages preparing or travelling because wonderful finds were on my doorstep, or in the park at the end of the road, or bursting out of the local industrial estate. One of my favourite spots is just outside my front door, where the remains of a churchyard show all the signs of having that rarest of rare habitats; unimproved grassland. It has been a pleasure to explore it and find beautiful fungi there:

Having said that, my neighbours must thing I’ve lost something, given I wander the churchyard looking intensely at the ground. They may think I’ve lost my mind but, by engaging with nature, I’ve actually found my mind. Today we went in search of a fungus which the Puffin Whisperer had spotted under the trees.

At first I thought it might be one of these beauties, a Pestle Puffball, which I found in the same churchyard a year ago:

But it isn’t. I suspect it’s a Scaly Earthball, Scleroderma verrucosum. It’s a very large and beautiful example. Here’s my phone photo:

Scleroderma - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

Scleroderma means hard skin and verrucosum means warty (like verrucas). I find the name Scaly Earthball a little disappointing. I decide I’m going to call it the Baked Potato fungus until I find there’s a similar species called the Potato Earthball. Oh well. I’m told that to be sure of the species I need to test what colour it turns if I drop potassium hydroxide on it. How random is that?

I’m off to find out where I can get caustic potash and a pipette in a pandemic. See you tomorrow for another local adventure.

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