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giant puffball mushroom

OLogy Series
biology
card
144

giant puffball mushroom

OLogy Series
biology

Giant puffballs aren't your typical mushrooms. These round, off-white fungi range from the size of a softball to a beach ball! Since they don't have stems, giant puffballs "sit" on lawns and meadows, absorbing nutrients from the soil. A mature giant puffball contains trillions of tiny spores that emerge as a puff of "smoke" if the mushroom is tapped or kicked.

Puff the Magic Mushroom
Sometimes giant puffballs are found in strange circles that some people call "fairy rings." It was once thought that these patterns were created by dancing fairies, but today we know the secret lies in the main part of the fungus, the mycelium. The large white globe of the giant puffball is really just the fruiting body that carries and scatters the spores. The mycelium, a thin tangle of white threads, lives underground and extends in all directions through the soil. When the fruiting bodies develop above the soil, they form a circle. Some fairy circles can be as large as 49 feet in diameter!

Giant puffballs release a cloud of tiny spores to:

reproduce

scare away predators

get rid of excess weight

Are you right?

Correct!

When a giant puffball matures, it gets hard and dark and cracks open to release a cloud of tiny spores. This spreads the spores or "seeds" to new areas. In warm and moist conditions, these spores will germinate new puffballs.

Giant puffballs grow very, very slowly.

Fact
or
Fiction
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Fiction

Like most fungi, giant puffballs grow very quickly and can more than double in size overnight.

Giant puffballs are safe to eat.

Fact
or
Fiction
?

Fact

Giant puffballs are safe to eat, but make sure the mushroom is big and has a soft, white inside. Otherwise, it might make you sick.

giant puffball mushroom
Scientific name: Langermannia gigantean
Size: 3 inches to 2 feet in diameter
Where found: southern England and temperate regions except in western North America
Habitat: in meadows; under small trees; in well-fertilized areas
Characteristics: bland and yucky flavor; round or pear-shaped; when tapped, trillions of spores can escape in a cloud of dust

Image credits: Br. Alfred Brousseau, Saint Mary's College, California Academy of Sciences.