The Bedouin of Sinai call this desert mushroom (Podaxis pistillaris) “hyena’s fart” in Arabic because they seem to appear out of nowhere, just like the hyenas (used to) do. And they do indeed pop up suddenly! But their spores, which can live for many years without water, have been there all along, under the desert sands, waiting for rain.
It was the Spring of 2014, after a very wet winter, that we spotted scores of these mushrooms dotting the sandy desert plains. A relative of the puffballs, this mushroom, sometimes called a Black Powderpuff, can grow up to 15 – 20 cm high. It has a large white cap that protects the inner blackish tissue. This tissue contains the spores, and when the mushroom reaches maturity, the cap will split open and fall away, allowing the spores to be dispersed by the wind.
These mushrooms – a good source of protein, essential amino acids, carbs, lipids, and minerals – are roasted and eaten by the Bedouin of Sinai.
Other common names in English for this mushroom include Desert Shaggy Mane and False Shaggy Mane.