Pepper pot (Myriostoma coliforme)

GenusMyriostoma (1)
SizeDiameter of opened bulb: 3 – 10 cm (2)

Short-listed for inclusion in the Bern Convention by the European Council for Conservation of Fungi (ECCF), and included on the Red Lists of 12 European countries (3).

The pepper pot is an earth star fungus; this group of fungi are named after their fruiting bodies, whose outer layers split open in distinctive, star-like rays as they mature (4). In this species, the 5 - 12 rays peel back, revealing a grey-brown spore-sac located in the centre of the disc. The sac is marked with numerous pores through which the spores are released; this leads to the common name of ‘pepper pot’ (4).

WARNING: many species of fungus are poisonous or contain chemicals that can cause sickness. Never pick and eat any species of fungus that you cannot positively recognise or are unsure about. Some species are deadly poisonous and can cause death within a few hours if swallowed.

The pepper pot fungus has a worldwide distribution; it is rare in Europe and restricted to southern and southeastern regions of the continent (5).

Inhabits open woodland, in warm nitrogen-rich sites (5), and is often associated with the false acacia (Robinia pseudoacacia) (6).

The extraordinary pepper pot fruiting bodies are persistent and may be observed year round (5), often appearing in groups (6).

Fungi are an enormous group of organisms that are so distinctive from both plants and animals that they are placed in their own kingdom. The main body of the fungus is composed of a multitude of microscopic threads (known as ‘hyphae’) which are located within the substrate (4). The fruiting body (such as the more familiar mushroom or toadstool) is produced to release spores and thus allows reproduction to occur. Fungi feed by absorbing nutrients from their surroundings.

The pepper pot fungus is threatened by the disturbance of its habitat, such as the removal of certain trees or a decrease in grazing (5).

The pepper pot fungus is a candidate species for listing in Appendix I of the Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats, otherwise known as the Bern Convention (3) (7). Recommendations for its conservation include the use of traditional farming methods on sites containing this fungus and the prevention of clear felling (5).

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:

  1. National Biodiversity Network, Species Dictionary (July, 2003)
  2. Jordan, M. (1995) The Encyclopedia of Fungi of Britain and Europe. David & Charles, Newton Abbot.
  3. The distribution, status and habitat requirement of the 33 fungal candidates for listing in Appendix I of the Bern Convention. (June 2003)
  4. Pegler, D. & Spooner, B. (1992) The Mushroom Identifier. Apple Press, London.
  5. European Council for Conservation of Fungi (ECCF) (2001) Datasheets of threatened mushrooms of Europe, candidates for listing in Appendix I of the Convention. Bern Convention Standing Committee.
  6. Courtecuisse, R. & Duhem, B. (1995) Mushrooms and toadstools of Britain and Europe. Harper Collins, London.
  7. Bern Convention (June, 2003)