Lycoperdon perlatum, commonly known as the common puffball, devil’s snuffbox and gem-studded puffball, is roughly the shape of an inverted pear. The stem is fairly large and the top is rounded. 2.5-7 cm wide and 3-7.5 cm high. Small whitish warts cover the fruiting body when young, fall off with age and leave scars. A large perforation is found in the center of the puffball that facilitates spore dispersal via rain or wind. White and fleshy when young but changing eventually to an olive color with brown spore dust. Spores 3.5-4.5 um round, minutely spiny. Capillital threads olive in KOH (3-7um wide).
The common puffball is located throughout America and Europe. In temperate regions it grows in the summer and fall. However, in warmer habitats like California and the Gulf of Mexico it grows nearly year round. Usually found in deciduous woodlands, but also can be located on roadsides or urban areas, where it grows on soil, decayed wood and occasionally on wood-chip mulch.
Lycoperdon perlatum is reported to be edible when young, but needs to be avoided after its white color fades. It can be confused with young, unexpanded fruitbodies of toxic fungus species such as some Amanita species . Fruitbodies of L. perlatum can accumulate lead and mercury; inhalation of spores of this and other puffballs can cause a lung disease known as lycoperdonosis.
Interestingly the genus name Lycoperdon translates as “Wolf fart.”
- Kew Royal Botanical Gardens, "Lycoperdon perlatum", http://www.kew.org/plants-fungi/Lycoperdon-perlatum.htm (accessed 12 April 2013)
- See also http://botit.botany.wisc.edu/toms_fungi/nov2001.html
- Tom Volk, Kjetil Henderson, Nathan Wilson, Walt Sturgeon, "Public Description of Lycoperdon perlatum Pers.", Mushroom Observer, http://mushroomobserver.org/name/show_name_description/60?_js=on&_new=true (accessed 12 April 2013) - content CC BY-NC-SA
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