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Puffball facts for kids

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Lycoperdon umbrinum.JPG
Lycoperdon umbrinum, commonly known as the umber-brown puffball
Scientific classification

Puffballs are fungi, so named because of the clouds of brown dust-like spores that come out of them when they burst or they are impacted.

True puffballs do not have a visible stalk or stem.

The distinguishing feature of all puffballs is that they do not have an open cap with spore-bearing gills. Instead, spores are produced internally.

Stalked puffballs do have a stalk that supports the gleba. None of the stalked puffballs are edible as they are tough and woody mushrooms.

All false puffballs are inedible, as they are tough and bitter to taste. The genus Scleroderma, which has a young purple gleba, should also be avoided.

Puffballs were traditionally used in Tibet for making ink by burning them, grinding the ash, then putting them in water and adding glue liquid and "a nye shing ma decoction", which, when pressed for a long time, made a black dark substance that was used as ink.

Edibility and identification

Puffball fungai
Spores coming out of puffball fungus

While most puffballs are not poisonous, some often look similar to ones that aren't, especially the deadly Amanitas, such as the death cap or destroying angel mushrooms. Young puffballs in the edible stage, before maturation of the gleba, have undifferentiated white flesh within; whereas the gills of immature Amanita mushrooms can be seen if they are closely examined. These can be very toxic.

Puffball Mushrooms On Sale
Puffball mushrooms on sale at a market in England

The giant puffball, Calvatia gigantea (earlier classified as Lycoperdon giganteum), reaches a foot (30 cm) or more in diameter, and is difficult to mistake for any other fungus. It has been estimated that a large specimen of this fungus when mature will produce around 7 × 10¹² spores.

Not all true puffball mushrooms are without stalks. Some may also be stalked like the Podaxis pistillaris which is also called the "false shaggy mane". There are also a number of false puffballs that look similar to the true ones.

Images for kids

See also

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