Sunshine yesterday after days of rain and general dankness, so we took ourselves off for a short walk up Windmill Hill. It was ages since we were last there – probably July when the pyramidal orchids were still in full bloom and there were drifts of yellow ladies bedstraw amongst the meadow grasses. Now the hill’s plateau top where the Windmill stands has been mown. It is practically a grassy sward up there.
And the reason for the mowing is that the kind Windmill Trust people, who are caring for the place, are trying to ensure the wellbeing of the old limestone meadow. In the recent past it was grazed over the autumn and winter months by ponies, but having field stock is anyway problematical when it’s such a popular spot for local dog walkers. So mowing it was, and I gather they managed to sell the grass for cattle feed, which all helps to support the Trust’s work.
Anyway, it was as I wandering around on the grassy top that I remembered the wolf farts. They featured in one of my early posts on matters Wenlockian and I hadn’t bothered to look for them since. And the reason I’d looked for them back then was because they cropped up in Guardian newspaper piece by journalist and nature writer of repute, Paul Evans, who happened to live in Much Wenlock.
So: what are wolf farts but the common puffball, Lycoperdon (from the Greek lycos wolf and perdomai to break wind) perlatum (gem-studded). Another name is devil’s snuffbox. My first introduction to them was in winter when they had dried to empty husks, their spores dispersed. The ones in the photos are at most 2.5 cm (a good inch) across.
I later read that squeezing them at the ripe stage was to be avoided. The spores are fine as dust and breathing them in can lead to lycoperdonosis, a life-threatening respiratory condition caused when the spores lodge in the lungs. A very nasty prospect.
But there were no such dangers of evil inhalants from the ones I spotted yesterday (header photo). They were freshly formed. And this reminded me of the recent marvellous foraging essay from Margaret at From Pyrenees to Pennines in which she describes finding “a magnificent puffball weighing in at more than a kilo, which – thickly sliced and dredged first in beaten egg, then breadcrumbs and grated parmesan and fried in butter – made splendidly tasty steaks.” As a fellow forager I was mightily excited by this piece of deliciousness. Somehow, though, I don’t think our tiny Windmill Hill wolf farts will quite come up to snuff on the tasty steak front.
More about the common puffball HERE
Of Wolf Farts, Windmills and the Wenlock Olympics original post
32 thoughts on “Of Long Past Posts ~ Wolf Farts Revisited”
Interesting. Puffballs. That looks like something I saw recently.
Oh my goodness! Who’d have thought that these cuties could be lethal at a later stage?!!! I’m off to your earlier post to see if I can find out what they’ve done to deserve such a colourful name of Wolf’s Farts.
Just what i was thinking – I never knew they were so lethal.
Think this might win the prize for best Squares title this month!
Not sure what to say to that, Becky : ) 🙂 🙂
I meant it positively!!
Of course. I knew you did 🙂
Well, I was enjoying reading about the incredibly named wolf farts when I suddenly came upon a name I recognised – my own! Thank you so much for this honourable mention. I’m beyond flattered. Puffballs aside, this looks a lovely walk. I need to discover your part of the world more thoroughly now I have good friends who’ve moved there.
Happy to make honourable mentions in your direction, Margaret. And yes – I think you’d like the Shropshire Hills and Wenlock Edge area. Lots of fine rambling paths.
Slowly, slowly I’m making discoveries, thanks to our friends.
I’m not sure about eating them. Are there different kinds?
I think we only have the common puffball that’s edible. They can grow prettty huge in the right conditions, and are quite dense in texture. When sliced and fried, they taste much like mushrooms.
Well this has made me giggle!
Jolly good. Am glad to raise a giggle or two.
what lovely shots of puff balls (are we talking the magic dragon here?!) – as children we liked to stamp on them to see them blow off!
Oh now you mention it, I remember stamping on puffballs. It was always fun to find them.
I love that last shot. That one’s just perfect and cute. I’ve never heard of them called wolf farts or devil’s snuffbox, but they’re both quite colorful names, much more colorful than puffball. I’ve never seen them this small and I also never knew you could eat them. 🙂
I also love all the country names for plant and fungal life, though some can be more than a bit rude.
I would never have guess those could be dangerous, but then again, I’m a bit cautious because we have some very strange things growing around here and I don’t know what they are. No one else seems to know either. I LOVE the lawn by the windmill. I saw a similar kind of growth in upstate New York in unmowed areas between fields where hay was being cut and baled. The natural growth is beautiful and full of color, especially now — when it’s not raining, that is.
Caution definitely wisest when wild foraging. But yes the array of grasses on Windmill Hill – an absolute wonder in mid-summer – so many textures and shades of green and russet and ochre.
Oh, interesting post….never come across that naming before
That looks like great walk love hunting the fungi although not brave enough to eat them.
Wise woman on the eating front. One does need a good mushroom guide (human rather than book) when it comes to IDs.
I do have a book Tish but still not chancing eating. I’ll just photograph them safer that way.
The only one I’m absolutely sure of is the parasol mushroom. They are delicious.
And happy October birthday to you, Tish! Hoping for a less general madness than we have had for some months now. Sarah
Many thanks, Sarah. And thank you for the good wishes. I wholeheartedly concur in hopes for less madness.
I have eaten giant puffball but didn’t enjoy it much to be honest – perhaps it was too old and past its sell-by date. But didn’t realise the spores are so dangerous. Are they related to lycopodium powder at all? (That used to be used in schools for certain experiments but was banned I think.)
Wiki says lycopodium powder comes from club moss spores – but obviously pretty similar to puffball spores. I’ve read that hunters and poachers used to use ripe puffballs – puffing out the spores to test the wind direction.
We used them to estimate the diameter of a molecule, but in a way the process was the same I suppose – the spores showing the movement of a droplet of oil as it spread into a disc over the surface of water.
That sounds rather fascinating to watch, James.
It happens almost spontaneously so not much of a spectacle tbh, but it’s a great expt to do.