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Charlotte Lukes holding a giant puffball.

Charlotte Lukes holds a 2 lb Giant Puffball Calvatia gigantea found in Door County, WI.

 

The Giant Puffball, Calvatia gigantea, is one of the most easily recognized of our common fungi. It grows on the ground in woods or lawns near wooded
areas. Some specimens can reach ten pounds in weight. They are safe to eat when fresh and completely white inside. It is a safe choice because there is
no poisonous "look-alike" to confuse the collector. This two-pound puffball is held by mycologist Charlotte Lukes.

C. gigantea is in the order Lycoperdales (puffballs) and Class Gasteromycetes in the Subdivision Basidiomycota. All species in the Lycoperdales reproduce by releasing dry spores into the air. Unlike other mushrooms the body of the puffball (basidiocarp) is filled with millions of spores that are trapped in net-like matrix of tissue that will prevent all the spores from being released all at once. As the spores matures, digestive enzymes are released by the mushroom that cause much of the interior tissue to dissolve. The white interior becomes dark and eventually dries out. The outer covering (perideum) flakes away, splits, or a pore forms in the top, that allows the spores to escape. Any disturbance, from raindrops or foraging animals, will release a cloud of dry brown spores from the puffball that drift on the wind and will grow into new fungi. The microscopic spores are often warted or spiny.

Puffballs are saprophytic, meaning they grow on decaying organic material, and are important ecological recyclers of nutrients in forests.


For more information on fungi in Wisconsin see The Fungi of Northern Door County

© 2001-2004 The Cofrin Center for Biodiversity and the University of Wisconsin Green Bay, All Rights Reserved
Last updated on May 9, 2014