Nature's Secret Larder - Common Earthball (Scleroderma citrinum)


Bushcraft Blog

Common Earthball (Scleroderma citrinum)
28th October 2013

Autumn is a wonderful time of year to go for a woodland stroll. It's amazing seeing how the familiar sights of summer have begun to fade, wither away and transition into the autumnal colours of gold and bronze. The smell of decay is fresh in the air, but with this rot comes the magical display of fungal delights, some perfectly edible, and some not so, but this doesn't make them any less special to find.

Take, for example, that of the common earth ball (Scleroderma citrinum). These look much like the common and edible puffballs, but earth balls, although similar in appearance, are inedible, although not fearsomely toxic like some species of mushroom, but they should be avoided as they are poisonous nonetheless. In fact, some unscrupulous restaurants will remove thin slices of the dark inner portion of this fungus, soak them in truffle oil and serve them as such! This is a dangerous practise as they are poisonous, even more so to select individuals.

Common Earthball (Scleroderma citrinum)

Common Earthball (Scleroderma citrinum)

The common earthball or pigskin poison puffball as it's sometimes known is a frequent sight in woodlands, grasslands and heathland, although I must admit, I rarely encounter them in any environment other than woodland, especially ancient woodlands with a good proportion of native broadleaf species. As the name suggests, the common earthball is the most common of all earthball in the UK.

In appearance the common earthball is usually an off-white or deep yellow colour, with a scaly surface. Although the size and shape may vary, they are usually 3-6cm and egg shaped. Unlike puffballs, the earthball feels solid, and if the thick skin is split open, it will
reveal a blackish, sometimes slightly purple-brown mass where the spores are produced from.


Vaffangool on 02/09/17

As a kid I once knelt beside our driveway to examine a patch of puffballs that had seemingly appeared out of nowhere. At the slightest disturbance a single ostiole spewed forth an impossibly coherent stream of spores, entering my eyes, nose, and mouth before I could blink. A dry mouth, itchy face, and burning eyes ensued—the effects were mild but worrisome in duration (about an hour, as I remember it).

Anyway, yeah can be pretty nasty depending on your sensitivity and dosage—lycoperdonosis can knock a dog down, so it'd be unsurprising for a horse to experience unpleasant effects.

Joe on 18/08/17

Has ingestion of spores from S vul ever been associated with zig zag flashing light lines at eyes corners? These lines are usually diagnosed as ocular migraines, but. . . Also, what is the chemical present to make these earth balls poisoness?

Macaila on 12/09/16

I have lots of puffballs/earth balls in a currently disused chicken run. We live next to a woodland, what would be the most effective way of rid of them so I can reintroduce chickens?

Taffi on 17/07/16

Hi, I'm wondering if you might have advice on how to get rid of common earth balls from my grass? I try to avoid any chemicals, but I have a 3 year old so would like to get rid of the fungi if possible!


Kris on 16/11/15

Hi Jeff,

No, I've not heard of these exact symptoms, but spore can cause allergic reactions, much like hay-fever, which I presume with enough irritation could also cause minor bleeding.

Kris on 16/11/15

Hi Missy,

Feel free to contact me via email (when I reply you can then send an image directly).


Missy Partain on 12/11/15

Wish I could post a pic of some that I found. They are not white on the outside. Kind of brownish when cut open they are white inside. Dont know if these are edible. Would like to know as I put them in my fridge til I find out.

Jeff on 05/10/15

My partner inhaled spores from an earthball mushroom..later that day she developed vomiting followed by diarrhoea with mucous and blood which lasted for around 10 days..have you heard of anymore cases similar to this

Kris on 16/09/15

Hello Rebecca. Earth balls are considered poisonous, and they have been known to cause stomach cramps and vomiting if eaten - although I've never heard of anyone suffering worse affects than this. Spores and seeds of most plants would be considered to cause respiratory difficulties, much like pepper if it was sniffed, but I don't think you need to worry. Similar species are puffballs - which are (when young) edible to most people. Just don't confuse young mushrooms (in their egg stage) with puffballs as they can look similar.

Rebecca Hutchins on 10/09/15

Hi how poisonous are earthball mushrooms to a 3 and 4 year old , we have these growing at the bottom of our garden and we are very concerned I also read some where that the spores can cause repertory issues if breathed in is this true and what affect could this have on a child with asthma many thanks

Kris on 10/09/14

Hello Fiona,

Thanks for the message. I can't imagine that Puffballs or earth-balls would cause this. Earth-balls are slightly toxic, but only mildly, and have no compounds that burn. Puffballs are quite safe, and even edible when young. I'd imagine this was caused by something entirely different. Some species of plant, such as Giant Hogweed can cause burns, but i'd imagine this would be quite uncommon in animals unless they'd managed to graze it, or somehow get a lot of sap onto their skin and through the fur.

I hope this helps.


fiona on 02/09/14

My horse came in from the field with a 2 to 3inch area on his thigh, with the hair and skin off. There are ?puffballs or common earthballs in the field that are open and wet like a paste in them, if he rolled in this could it have burnt his skin.

Kris on 24/07/14

Hi Peter,

Earth-balls are considered poisonous, and there have been reports of people becoming very ill when eating them. Although, most cases resolve themselves relatively shortly without any lasting effects. Generally they cause stomach cramps and pains and vomiting.

peter west on 21/07/14

how poisionous are these earthballs ? if swallowed what effects would it have on someone

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