What You Should Know
Lycoperdon pretense is a type of puffball mushroom in the genus Lycoperdon. It is found in Europe, and occasionally in North America, and is commonly seen in dune systems, where it can be abundant in dune slacks as well as in grassland and lawns, as its vernacular name suggests. In the early stages of development, its skin is scruffy whereas its bigger relatives have smooth skins; the meadow puffball is edible and has a stump-like stem (to differentiate it from the giant puffball).
To differentiate these puffballs look underneath: the Meadow Puffball has a stump-like stem whereas there is no stem on a Giant Puffball.
Other names: Meadow Puffball.
Lycoperdon pratense Mushroom Identification
An elongated ovoid form 4 to 8cm across and 2 to 4cm tall, with a short sterile stem typically half the width of the fruitbody; the stem is separated from fertile upper section by a skin-like membrane; the outer surface is white and scurfy with an irregular scattering of short spines when young, becoming smooth and eventually turning brown and rupturing at the apex; internally white at first, turning olive and finally brown as the spore mass matures; spores disperse through a large apical hole.
The stem is 1 to 2cm tall and typically 1.5cm diameter, swollen towards the base; color as the fertile head but with shorter spines.
Spherical, with finely warted surfaces; 3 - 5.5µm in diameter.
Light brown, eventually becoming dark brown when fully mature.
Odor and Taste
Habitat & Ecological Role
In permanent pastures, old lawns, dune slacks, golf courses, and parks; occasionally also on roadside verges.
Lycoperdon pratense Look-Alikes
Covered in warts rather than spines.
Occurs on stumps and buried wood.
Has a surface covered initially in woolly patches.
Lycoperdon pratense Cooking Notes
The Meadow Puffball must be pure white inside if it is to be consumed. Any specimens that have any sign of yellowing, or worse browning, should be discarded as they will cause severe gastric distress.
The skin is tough so should be removed first.
It has a slimy consistency and does not have the strongest taste, so it is best turned into a schnitzel, added to mushroom soups as a thickener, or included in dishes with lots of other mushrooms of different textures
Lycoperdon pratense Taxonomy and Etymology
This largish edible fungus was first described in scientific literature by Christiaan Hendrik Persoon in 1797, when it was given the binomial name Lycoperdon pratense - still its accepted scientific name.
Synonyms of Lycoperdon pratense include Lycoperdon hiemale Bull., Lycoperdon depressum Bonord. Vascellum depressum (Bonord.) F. Šmarda, and Vascellum pratense (Pers.) Kreisel.
The specific epithet pratense simply means 'of meadows', while the genus name Lycoperdon translates to 'wolf's flatulence' and begs the question who got close enough to a wolf to become an expert on the matter. For most of us, surely such an odor cannot be considered a particularly helpful diagnostic feature for identifying the Meadow Puffball, Lycoperdon pratense.
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Photo 3 - Author: Jerzy Opioła (Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported)
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Photo 5 - Author: Jerzy Opioła (Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported)
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