The Purdue Plant and Pest Diagnostic Laboratory

What's Hot on October 10, 2005
at the P&PDL!



Gail Ruhl, Senior Plant Disease Diagnostician, Purdue University

Puffballs are a type of mushroom. Spores may be dispersed from the opening at the top of the puffball, such as seen here in this Lycoperdon sp. (Figure 4) When young, puffballs are usually white. Fungal ‘root-like’ mycelial threads (Figure 5) 'attach' puffballs to the ground. The interior of the puffball is initially solid white, gradually turning yellow, then brown as the mushroom matures. Finally, the interior changes to a mass of dark, olive-green to brown powdery spores.

Puffballs can be found growing on the ground or on logs, or stumps in wooded areas in late summer or fall. Some puffballs are small, measuring 1 to 3 inches in diameter while others, such as the giant puffball (Calvatia spp.), measure up to 20 inches in diameter or more and look like over-inflated volleyballs dotting the landscape (Figures 1,2 and 3).

Photo credits
Figures 1, 4 and 5: Gail Ruhl, Department of Botany and Plant Pathology, P&PDL
Figures 2 and 3: Barb MacDougall, Indianapolis

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Click image to enlarge

Figure 1. Relative size of giant puffballs (placed on lawn) in comparison to a tennis ball

Figure 2. Giant puffball impeded in growth by euonymus.
(small catalogue provides size reference)

Figure 3. Giant puffballs in wooded area in Indianapolis

Figure 4. Mature Lycoperdon sp.

Figure 5. Puffballs with mycelial 'threads' that 'attach' them to the soil surface

Purdue Plant & Pest Diagnostic Lab Purdue Cooperative Extension Service