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False Puffball

False puffball (Reticularia lycoperdon)

Other names: Enteridium lycoperdon, cauliflower slime mould

When to see: Seen most commonly April – June but can also be seen in Autumn

Unlike the common puffball, the false puffball grows as a ‘globular mass’ on dead standing trees or on fallen branches. The mass is about the size of half a golf ball [Note 1] and starts off as a white/cream-coloured growth. The surface appearance can vary but it often looks like a ball of slug eggs [Note 2] or as if it is covered in small florets: hence the alternative name ‘cauliflower slime mould’. And this alternative name gives a clue to the nature of this organism, i.e., it is a slime mould.

Close up photo of a false puffball (Reticularia lycoperdon) growing on fallen branch
False puffball (Reticularia lycoperdon) in Beanley Wood (9 Apr 2023)

Not a fungus, then?

Slime moulds are a group of slimy (gelatinous) organisms capable of moving like amoeba and that produce fruiting bodies when nutrients are scarce {Note 3]. They used to be classified as fungi but nowadays are not considered to be part of the same kingdom. However, like fungi, they reproduce using spores.

Over time, a false puffball develops a thin, papery ‘skin’ which ultimately bursts (having been knocked by a passing animal, rain drops falling on it, etc). This releases a puff of the brown spores contained within, leaving behind a brown ‘spore print’ on the host wood.


Although they are not toxic, false puffballs are inedible owing to their bitter taste [Note 4].

I could be wrong

I’m not an expert at identifying fungi – I’m just a hobbyist. So, I may well be wrong about the identity of mushrooms shown here. If you think I’ve misidentified anything then please feel free to get in touch using the Contact Form and I’ll be pleased to update the information. Thanks!

REMEMBER: Unless you are 100% confident that you know what you are doing, NEVER EAT wild mushrooms – many are poisonous and/or can cause severe illness. Look but don’t eat!


  1. Nature Spot (undated) False Puffball [WWW] Accessed 12 April 2023.
  2. Jungle Dragon (undated) False Puffball [WWW] Accessed 12 April 2023.
  3. Britannica (2023) Slime Mold [WWW] Accessed 12 April 2023.
  4. Champs Yves (2009) Enteridium lycoperdon [WWW] Accessed 12 April 2023. [Link no longer available 25 Mar 2024]
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