Puffballs – Mushrooms with internal spore.
‘Puffball’ is just a descriptive term for mushrooms that do not have an open cap but are a spherical or
pear shaped ball containing internally produced spores.
True puffballs have no stalk.
They are all Basidiomycetes but occur in a number of families – some related to gilled mushrooms,
others to the boletes and, if the earthstars are included, to stinkhorns.
Genera include Bovista, Calvatia, Handkea, Lycoperdon (with the largest number of species) and Scleroderma.
Many people include the earthstars, genus Geastrum, as they have a sac full of spores that sits on a base of star-like rays.
Also usually included are the few species of stalked puffballs (Battarrea phalloides, Calostoma cinnabarina,
Pisolithus tinctorius and Tulostoma simulans).
False puffballs are hard and brittle.
Puffballs grow in decaying wood, singly or in groups.
Sizes range from 1 to 120 cm across.
They may be smooth or covered with spines or warts.
Young puffballs are a small, roughly spherical, fleshy white ball.
They are anchored by thick or thin ‘roots’.
As they grow they become drier and the colour changes to yellow or light brown.
Mature ones are round or slightly pear-shaped with an elongated base.
The fleshy interior becomes a powdery mass of maturing spores.
When mature the wall splits to release the spores (the earthstars have an apical pore).
Many can be identified by appearance only.