Information

Puffball mushroom species ID?


Found this mushroom today. It's a kind of puffball mushroom and I think pestle puffball but I hope someone can confirm that/point me to other likely species.

It was in Central Eastern Sweden (Uppsala) in a pine and birch forest. Autumn has been quite dry so the season may be a bit delayed. They were in bunches of 2-5 mushrooms, they are about 1-4cm across the ball and the stem is quite fat plus about 1-3cm long. They are white through the middle.


Given what you've said in the comments, and how much more common they are, I'm going with my first gut reaction of Lycoperdon perlatum. The big give away for me was that you said there was a good taste. L. Perlatum has a rich nutty flavor (my wife grows them), but Handkea excipuliformis (pestle puffballs) don't have much taste if any. They are seriously notably bland. H. excipuliformis can take on the flavor of what ever you cook them with, so if you cooked in a nut oil or with nuts, then you would have given the flavor that way.

Not that I support taste as a primary means of id… In this case most of the puffballs are edible so you were in a low risk situation. I just don't want to start a wave of fungus ID's that include taste info!


October 6, 2011

These spectacular mushrooms are a joy to stumble upon. Actively hunting for them can be a waste of time as they are eccentric in when and where they grow. While they can recur in the same locations year after year, this is by on means certain. The best strategy is to keep half an eye on hedgerows and verges while driving and hope to get lucky! You only need to find one for a banquet – they can be thickly sliced and fried like steaks with bacon and garlic or make a superb creamy (savoury marshmallow) addition to mushroom risottos if diced. My favourite recipe is to hollow smallish ones out, fill with devilled kidneys, wrap with bacon and roast whole.

Common, stump and meadow puffballs

  • Edibility – 2/5 – Only eat if white throughout – discard if yellowing or powdery.
  • Identification – 3/5 – see below
  • Distribution – 4/5 (stump/common) – 2/5 (meadow)
  • Season – June – November
  • Habitat – see below

Large clusters of smaller puffballs (lycoperdon sp) are quite common and edible, though not so tasty as giant puffballs and requiring peeling before use. Though quite distinctive, novices often mistake unopened agarics and (more dangerously) amanitas, for puffballs. The three small pictures below clearly show how a fly agaric emerges from its puffball-like universal veil. If you aren’t sure, cut them in half to ensure there is nothing but ‘puff’ in the middle – and never munch on a hunch!

Fly agaric developing from universal veil

Another identification pitfall is mistaking them for earthballs (scleroderma spp). Earthballs a tend to be darker and much more solid. All earth balls have dark, dense interiors when cut. Rather than puffing out their mature spores like puffballs, earthballs split and drop their spores where they lie.

Common puffball (lycoperdon perlatum)

Stump puffball (lycoperdon pyriforme). Grows in large clusters on treestumps. Finer warts, browner and more pear-shaped than common puffball.

The ‘cup’ remains of a meadow puffball (calvatia utriformis) – which grow larger than common puffballs but not as big as giant puffballs! (up to 12cm).

BEWARE! Once you get the puffball hunting bug, you will find yourself regularly diverting for footballs, floats and random pale, vaguely spherical objects in fields and hedgerows.

Giant puffballs are remarkably fecund. It is estimated that one can produce 7 TRILLION spores. Not all of these are viable and the vast majority alight on unsuitable terrain, but thats no reason not to kick their spore-smoking husks around your garden in the hope of setting up a nursery!

Related pages:

  • Edible Wild Fungi Guide
  • In Season Now
  • Introduction to Fungi Foraging
  • Learn to forage with an expert

8 Comments

I have some pictures of a softball size puffball that I would like help identifying. How can I post/email a picture?
From near Brady, Texas

Hi Steve, sure, you can post to my Twitter or FB pages.

In my experience, by far the best place to look for giant puffballs is the middle of nettle patches. Painfull, but they obviously like the rich soil under nettles, and no-one else will be foolish enough gpto get them first.

In my experience, by far the best place to look for giant puffballs is the middle of nettle patches. Painfull, but they obviously like the rich soil under nettles, and no-one else will be foolish enough gpto get them first.

That said, nettles—if you gather them with gloves and know how to defuse them—are packed with nutrients and supposed to taste of spring greenness itself:

We found three giant puff and I made it to pizza based, it was delicious.


Puffball mushroom species ID? - Biology

The term "puffball," as I am using it here, is not at all scientific I mean more or less any mushroom that looks like a ball when mature. Typically the interior of a puffball is composed of spore-producing flesh that turns into spore dust as the mushroom matures. When the puffball matures it splits open, or a perforation develops on surface of the ball, through which the spores escape&mdashwhen raindrops land on the puffball, via air currents, or by some other means.

Puffballs range widely in size and appearance&mdashfrom tiny species that grow in clusters on wood, to large, terrestrial species growing in fairy rings in meadows. A few species, like Calvatia gigantea , are enormous, reaching diameters of 50 cm! I am including the "earthstars" with the puffballs since they consist, at maturity, of a puffball sitting atop a star-shaped arrangement of fleshy arms&mdashas well as the so-called "stalked puffballs," which consist of a ball-like spore case that sits atop a stem.

When sliced open, puffballs contain only flesh&mdashor, if they have matured, spore dust. This separates them from buttons of some gilled mushrooms that have universal veils and can appear like puffballs, since those mushrooms display the future mushroom in cross-section. Some slime molds can appear like puffballs, as well, but when sliced open they are filled with gooey, gelatinous material. Stinkhorn "eggs" are also gelatinous inside, and display the stinkhorn-to-be when sliced open.

Taxonomically, the term "puffballs" is incoherent, since they are so diverse and come from many different families and genera (even different phyla!). Many belong in the gilled mushroom order (many in the Lycoperdaceae family) while others are more closely related to the boletes, a few are related to the stinkhorns.

If your puffball is growing underground or partially underground, it may well be a truffle or false truffle. I have not yet treated these mushrooms at MushroomExpert.Com, beyond a few species pages (see Tuber lyonii and Zelleromyces cinnabarinus for examples).

Atkinson, G. F. (1903). A new species of Calostoma. The Journal of Mycology 9: 14&ndash17.

Baseia, I. G. (2003). Contribution to the study of the genus Calvatia (Lycoperdaceae) in Brazil. Mycotaxon 88: 107&ndash112.

Baseia, I. G. (2005). Some notes on the genera Bovista and Lycoperdon (Lycoperdaceae) in Brazil. Mycotaxon 91: 81&ndash86.

Baseia, I. G., B. D. B. Silva, A. G. Leite & L. C. Maia (2007). O gênero Calostoma (Boletales, Agaricomycetidae) em áreas de cerrado e semi-árido no Brasil. Acta Botanica Brasilica 21: 277&ndash280.

Bates, S. T. (2004). Arizona members of the Geastraceae and Lycoperdaceae (Basidiomycotina, Fungi). Masters thesis, Arizona State University.

Burnap, C. E. (1897). Contributions from the cryptogamic laboratory of Harvard University. XXXVIII. Notes on the genus Calostoma. Botanical Gazette 23: 180&ndash192.

Cairney, J. W. G. (2002). Pisolithus &mdashdeath of the pan-global super fungus. New Phytologist 153: 199&ndash211.

Calonge, F. D., G. Guzmán & F. Ramírez-Guillén (2004). Observaciones sobre los Gasteromycetes de México depositados en los herbarios XAL y XALU. Boletín de la Sociedad Micológica de Madrid 28: 337&ndash372.

Carlsson, R. & C. -A. Hæggström (2005). Geastrum rufescens in the Åland Islands, SW Finland. Karstenia 45: 63&ndash68.

Coker, W. C. & Couch, J. N. (1928). The Gasteromycetes of the eastern United States and Canada . Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. Reprinted by Dover Publications, 1974.

Demoulin, V. (1972). Espèces nouvelles ou méconnues du genre Lycoperdon (Gastéromycètes). Lejeunia 62: 1&ndash30.

Demoulin, V. (1973). Phytogeography of the fungal genus Lycoperdon in relation to the opening of the Atlantic. Nature 242: 123&ndash125.

Demoulin, V. (1976). Species of Lycoperdon with a setose exoperidium. Mycotaxon 3: 275&ndash296.

Demoulin, V. (1983). Clé de détermination des espèces du genre Lycoperdon présentes dans le sud de l'Europe. Revísta de Biologia 12: 65&ndash70.

Demoulin, V. (1993). Calvatia pachyderma (Peck) Morg. and Gastropila fragilis (Lev.) Homrich et Wright, two possible names for the same fungus. Mycotaxon 46: 77&ndash84.

Grand, L. F. (1976). Distribution, plant associates and variation in basidiocarps of Pisolithus tinctorius in the United States. Mycologia 68: 672&ndash678.

Gube, M. (2007). The gleba development of Langermannia gigantea (Batsch: Pers.) Rostk. (Basidiomycetes) compared to other Lycoperdaceae, and some systematic implications. Mycologia 99: 396&ndash405.

Jarvis, S. S. (2014). The Lycoperdaceae of California . Ph. D. thesis, San Francisco State University. 336 pp.

Kreisel, H. (1989). Studies in the Calvatia complex (Basidiomycetes). Nova Hedwigia 48: 281&ndash296.

Kreisel, H. (1992) An emendation and preliminary survey of the genus Calvatia (Gasteromycetidae). Persoonia 14: 431&ndash439.

Kreisel, H. (1993). A key to Vascellum (Gasteromycetidae) with some floristic notes. Blyttia 51: 125&ndash129.

Kreisel, H. (1994). Studies in the Calvatia complex (Basidiomycetes) 2. Feddes Repertorium 105: 369&ndash376.

Lander, C. A. (1934). The development of the fruiting body of Arachnion album. Journal of the Elisha Mitchell Scientific Society 50: 275&ndash282.

Lange, M. (1990). Arctic Gasteromycetes II. Calvatia in Greenland, Svalbard and Iceland. Nordic Journal of Botany 9: 525&ndash546.

Lange, M. (1993). Classifications in the Calvatia group. Blyttia 51: 141&ndash144.

Lloyd, C. G. (1908). Mycological Writings . Volume II. Cincinnati.

Long, W. H. (1943). Studies in the Gasteromycetes: VIII. Battarrea laciniata. Mycologia 35: 546&ndash556.

Long, W. H. (1946). Studies in the Gasteromycetes: XII. Five species of Tylostoma with membranous exoperidia. Mycologia 38: 77&ndash90.

Magallon-Puebla, S. & S. R. S. Cevallos-Ferriz (1993). A fossil earthstar (Geastraceae Gasteromycetes) from the late Cenozoic of Puebla, Mexico. American Journal of Botany 80: 1162&ndash1167.

Martín, M. P. (1997). Exoperidium and spores of Calvatia utriformis . Mycotaxon 61: 381&ndash387.

Miller, O. K. & Miller, H. H. (1988). Gasteromycetes: Morphological and developmental features with keys to the orders, families, and genera. Eureka, CA: Mad River Press. 157 pp.

Ponce de Leon, P. (1968). A revision of the family Geasteraceae. Fieldiana: Botany 31: 302&ndash349.

Ramsey, R. W. (1980). Lycoperdon nettyana , a new puffball from western Washington State. Mycotaxon 11: 185&ndash188.

Rea, P. M. (1942). Fungi of southern California. I. Mycologia 34: 563&ndash574.

Reed, H. S. (1910). A note on two species of Calostoma. The Plant World 13: 246&ndash248.

Ritchie, D. (1948). The development of Lycoperdon oblongisporum. American Journal of Botany 35: 215&ndash219.

Smith, A. H. (1951). Puffballs and their allies in Michigan . Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. 131 p.

Stadler, M., T Læssøe, J. Fournier, C. Decock, B. Schmieschek, H. -V. Tichy & D. Peršoh (2014). A polyphasic taxonomy of Daldinia (Xylariaceae). Studies in Mycology 77: 1&ndash143.

Trierveiler-Pereira, L., A. W. Wilson, R. M. B. da Silveira & L. S. Domínguez (2013). Costa Rican gasteromycetes (Basidiomycota, Fungi): Calostomataceae, Phallaceae and Protophallaceae. Nova Hedwigia 96: 533&ndash544.

White, V. S. (1901). The Tylostomaceae of North America. Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club 28: 421&ndash444

Wright, J. E. (1987). The genus Tulostoma (Gasteromycetes)&mdashA world monograph. Bibliotheca Mycologica 113. Berlin: J. Cramer. 338 pp.

Wright, J. E. (1990). Calvatia pachyderma (Peck) Morgan is Gastropila fragilis (Lev.) Homrich & Wright. Mycotaxon 37: 187&ndash189.

Yuri, R. (2016). Gasteromycetes of the genus Lycoperdon in Russia. Mikologiya I Fitopatologiya 50: 302&ndash312.

Zamora, J. C., F. D. Calonge, K. Hosaka & M. P. Martín (2014). Systematics of the genus Geastrum (Fungi: Basidiomycota) revisited. Taxon 63: 477&ndash497.

Zamora, J. C., F. D. Calonge & M. P. Martín (2015). Integrative taxonomy reveals an unexpected diversity in Geastrum section Geastrum (Geastrales, Basidiomycota). Persoonia 34: 130&ndash165.

Zeller, S. M. (1947). More notes on Gasteromycetes. Mycologia 39: 282&ndash312.

Zeller, S. M. (1948). Notes on certain Gasteromycetes, including two new orders. Mycologia 15: 639&ndash668.

This site contains no information about the edibility or toxicity of mushrooms.


Puffball Mushroom, You’ll Be Ok If You Follow One ID Feature


Bovista aestivalis Puffball Mushroom (Photo By: Ron Pastorino at Mushroom Observer / Wikimedia Commons)

The Puffball Mushroom(Genus:Calvatia, Bovista and others) is an easily identifiable common mushroom but it has some very, very poisonous look-a-likes, namely young destroying angel and deathcap mushrooms. Puffball mushrooms fall into a number of genuses, most of them are small(less than 3”) but there is one giant puffball(Calvatia gigantea) that can grow up to one foot diameter and is edible.

Correct Identification

There is one good way to tell puffballs apart from its poisonous look-a-likes, you must cut the mushroom in half from top to bottom. The inside of edible puffball mushrooms should be pure white, like a marshmallow, or like fresh mozzarella balls, there should be no patterns, or marks or colors or anything other than pure white, and especially no signs of gills. If you follow this one rule you should be able to enjoy mushroom hunting for puffball mushrooms without worry. Not all puffballs are edible, and not all are edible at all stages, but if you stick with the rule of pure white inside with no markings(especially gills) then you will only be eating edible puffballs. You can buy spores for edible puffballs HERE, These species are synonymous with Calvatia gigantea but are referred to by a different scientific name.

Edibility and Culinary Use

Giant Puffball(Calvatia gigantea)(Photo By: Pavel Savela / Wikimedia Commons)

Puffballs have a mild mushroomy taste that is not overwhelming, some people describe it as an earthy taste. They can be used in recipes in place of eggplant. The texture is like tofu so they make a great addition to soups. They should be eaten cooked, baked, boiled, or fried in butter are all common ways to eat this mushroom. Although it is possible to freeze or dry them they are best when eaten shortly after picking, this may be one reason they are not a popular grocery item. See our breaded puffball mushroom recipe for one way to prepare them. Washing the interior of the mushroom is not a good idea since it will soak up water like a sponge and become soggy, if you are worried about dirt or germs you can remove the skin from the mushrooms instead.

Health Benefits

The nutritional and health benefits of wild foods are not studied enough. But there is one important possible health benefit to eating puffballs in the genus Calvatia. A chemical called calvacin has been found in puffballs in the genus calvatia. Calvacin is now being studied as a potent cancer drug because of its antitumor properties. The studies are still ongoing and there have not been any huge breakthroughs, but it is known to prevent tumors when taken on a regular basis.

Lycoperdon pyrforme Puffball Mushroom (Photo By: Bernd Gliwa / Wikimedia Commons)

The primary caution of this fungus is to make sure it is identified correctly, if you accidentally eat a mushroom in the Amanita genus especially destroying angel(Amanita bisporigera, ocreata, or virosa) or deathcap(Amanita phalloides) then you will probably die within 24 hours. But the rule mentioned above about making sure the mushroom is pure white is universally accepted, and will keep you safe. Rare allergic reactions have been reported and are usually minor, so always eat a small portion of any new food and wait before indulging in large quantities.

This is a great mushroom for mushroom hunting, especially the giant puffball because it is almost impossible to misidentify. It has a mild taste and a familiar texture. It can be cooked and added to many types of dishes. So with one identification rule to follow this can be a great wild edible to add to your list.

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Making a Mushroom Spore Print

Figure 1. Grayish-green spore print produced by the mushroom Chlorophyllum molybdites. Photo credit: Curtis E. Young, Ohio State University

The color of a mushroom’s spores is important for identification. You can determine the spore color by making a spore print (Figure 1). First, cut off the stem and place the mushroom cap, gills or pores down, on a piece of paper, glass slide, or tin foil. Cover the cap with a small bowl, cup, or wrap it in tinfoil and leave it undisturbed for 2-24 hours depending on the freshness of the mushroom (8 hours usually works well). If your spore print is successful you should have a visible spore deposit under the mushroom cap. Record the color of the spores and save the deposit when finished. The plant diagnostic lab does not require a spore print when mushroom samples are submitted.


Mushrooms of Missouri

Mushrooms have always been an important part of human cultures spanning the globe. The Aztecs and many Southern American communities had extensive medicinal and entheogenic uses for them while numerous tales from European nations revolve around this mysterious and alluring fungi. Today, Mushrooms have a more practical use, many species (like the shiitake, common oyster, or enokitake mushrooms) have become staples of our culinary palette. Furthermore, mushrooms continue opening doors to new discoveries in fields of both medicine and biology. However, the essence of mycology still resides in the thrill of the hunt Mycologists continue to discover new species of mushrooms every year during communal forages across the globe. But be careful! Despite their draws and many benefits, mushrooms can be exceedingly dangerous there are a number of species whose adverse symptoms following ingestion include states of coma or even death. As of such it is exceedingly important to have a thorough understanding of what you are dealing with if you ever decide to forage for any fungi. This guide will give you the fundamentals needed to get started, but it is highly reccomended that you use the sources linked to give you a more detailed understanding of specific mushrooms you might find yourself looking for.

The Iconic Fly Agaric (Amanita Muscaria) Photo by Bernard Spragg [public domain]

What are Mushrooms?

Mushrooms are the fruiting body of a fungus that contains the plants reproductive spores. In other words, they are the fruit of fungus that facility the organisms ability to reproduce. The actual fungus resides under the ground as a network of threads known as hyphae. When two compatible hyphae meet, they can form a mycelium, which allows for the fruiting of a mushroom. Although they are characterized as members of the plant kingdom, they lack chlorophyll, and subsequently cannot photosynthesize. They rely on organic matter as their food source and are divided into three separate groups on the basis of how they get their nutrition.

  • Saprophytes: Live on dead plant matter, or the feces of some animals.
  • Parasites: Latch on to living plants or animals.
  • Mycorrhizal: These types of mushrooms have a symbiotic relationship with a plant, whereby its Mycelium (underground vegetative part of a mushroom) links with the root system of a tree or a shrub, giving the tree extra water and nutrients. In return, after the tree has photosynthesized, it passes carbohydrates to the fungi.

Anatomy

Cap (Pileus): The cap is the uppermost part of the mushroom and provides support for the pore bearing surface. The cap of a mushroom can vary wildly between species. The shape, texture, moisture level, color, and smell can all help distinguish mushrooms on account of their cap. The surface layer of a cap is known as the cuticle, and the mushroom’s flesh lies underneath.

Ascus: The spore-bearing cell produced in Ascomycetes which normally consists of 8 individual spores, although the number (and shape) of the Ascus and respective ascospores can vary.

Basidium: The spore-bearing cells produced in Basidiomycetes (these cells prdouce Basidiospores). Once again, the number of Basidiospores can range anywhere from 2 – 8.

Gills (Lamella): Gills are home to the spore-bearing Ascus for some mushrooms.. Gills radiate out from the stalk either at direct 90-degree angles (adnate) or obliquely at 45-degree angles (adnexed). Not all mushrooms have Gills! Mushrooms classified as Basidiomycetes, like Boletes and Polypores, are unique for their lack of Gills, and have a “tube layer” of vertical fleshy columns under their cap. The Basidia (the microscopic spore-producing agent) are located within the walls of the tubes.

Stalk: The stalk usually stems from the center of the cap of a mushroom, but they can also be located off to the side (lateral), or nonexistent, which normally means they are growing on wood where the spores have adequate elevation to fall.

Veils: A membrane that protects fledgling parts of a mushroom (specifically the gills or the entire mushroom in an immature state) The veil is ruptured as the mushroom grows. A veil which covers the entire mushroom is known as universal, whereas it is partial if it only covers the gills of the mushroom. When veils are broken, the leftover portion near the top of the stem is known as a ring. The leftover portion of a universal veil which looks like a cup at the bottom of the stem is known as a volva.

Hiearchical Classifcations of Mushrooms:

Bolded Orders or Families can commonly be found in Missouri according to findings determined by the Missouri Mycological society.

Ascomycetes:

  • Class: Discomycetes (Disc Fungi)
    • Order: Pezizales (Cup Fungi and Allies)
    • Helotiales (Earth Tongues)
    • Tuberales (Truffles)
    • Sphaeriales (Ostiole Flasks)

    Basidiomycetes:

    • Hymenomycetes (Exposed Hymenium Fungi)
      • Tremellales (Jelly Fungi)
      • Aphyllophorales (Coral and Pore Fungi)
        • Family: Cantharellaceae (Chanterelles)
        • Clavariaceae (Coral Fungus)
        • Coniophoraceae (Dry Rot)
        • Corticiaceae (Crust Fungus)
        • Hydnaceae (Tooth Fungus)
        • Hymenochaetaceae (Hymenochaete)
        • Polyporaceae (Polypore)
        • Schizophyllaceae (Schizophyllum)
        • Stereaceae (Parchment Fungus)
        • Agaricaceae (Agaricus and Lepiota)
        • Amanitaceae (Amanita)
        • Bolbitiaceae (Bolbitius)
        • Boletaceae (Bolete)
        • Coprinaceae (Inky Cap)
        • Cortinariaceae (Cortinarius)
        • Crepidotaceae (Crepidotus)
        • Entolomataceae (Entoloma)
        • Gomphidiaceae (Gomphidius)
        • Hygrophoraceae (Hygrophorous)
        • Paxillaceae (Paxillus)
        • Pluteaceae (Pluteus)
        • Russulaceae (Russula)
        • Strophariaceae (Stropharia)
        • Tricholomataceae (Tricholoma)
        • Hymenogastrales (Gilled Puffballs)
        • Podaxales (Desert Inky Cap Fungus)
        • Gautieriales (Plated Puffballs)
        • Lycoperdales (Puffballs)
        • Nidulariales (Bird’s Nest Fungi)
        • Phallales (Stinkhorns)
        • Sclerodermatales (False Puffballs)
        • Tulostomatales (Stalked Puffballs)

        Myxomycotina:

        THIS IS JUST A PARTIAL TAXONOMIC RANKING OF ALL MUSHROOMS: If you are interested in a more comprehensive hiearchy refer to these sources:

        Also Consider Field Guides:

        Keep in mind that classifying mushrooms is exceedingly difficult and always subject to change (as a result of new methods of identification becoming standard in the mycological world), so most accounts will have some differences or discrepancies. Rest assured that these inaccuracies are largely within the species level, as of such, no mushrooms labelled as “edible” will in fact be poisonous! Below will be a generalized summation of the characteristics of the more popular types of mushrooms you might find foraging, the descriptions below are not complete.

        Ascomytes:

        Cup Fungi (Pezizales): This order of mushrooms, which broadly categorizes a number of species, is unique for its asci, which are cylindrical spore-bearing structures that generally contain 8 spores. Common early in spring, before most gilled mushrooms sprout, Pezizales can be found on rotting wood, or in damp areas, and can be easily spotted (most of them are quite colorful). Species in this group include Morels, False Morels, and of course, many types of cup-fungi.

        Earthtongue (Helotiales): This is another broad order that contains a variety of mushrooms including earthtongues, fairy fans, jelly drops, and hairy fairy cups. Mostly small, these mushrooms grow on wet wood or plant stems, and are frequently quite colorful. No Helotiales have been classified as edible. They have club shapped asci.

        Basidiomycetes:

        Agaric (Agaricaceae): The Agaric family is home to most of the common mushrooms that we cultivate for culinary purposes.

        Amanita (Amanitaceae): The Amanita family is home to the iconic “mushroom”, red with white flecks dotting the cap, however, Amanita’s have significant variance in their physical appearance. All Amanitas have a universal veil, frequently leaving the cup-like volva at the base of the mushroom once it has grown. Furthermore, Amanitas also have a partial veil which enclose the gills of the mushroom, and will leave a ring of tissue right under the cap. Normally, the gills are free from the stalk. A final important identifying factor is the universal white spore print that all Amanitas will have. It is exceedingly important to correctly identify an Amanita as they feature a broad range of highly poisonous mushrooms from the frequently lethal Death Cap to the delirium inducing Fly Agaric. The latter mushroom contains ibotenic acid, a neurotoxin, and muscimol the psychoactive agent within the mushroom, which can cause serious harm when ingested and should be diligently avoided. A mushroom like the Death Cap contains amatoxins which effectively stunts the creation of messenger RNA, and phallotoxins which are toxic to lvier cells. A more comprehensive understanding of the adverse chemical effects of Mushrooms can be found below.

        Polypores (Polyporaceae): Like Boletes, Polypores have the same basidia-lined tube layer under their cap (turning the mushroom over is a good visual que as to why Polypore means “many-pored”). Polypores, many of which are perennial, are shelflike or lack a stalk and generally grow on wood. As for edibility, none are fatally poisonous, although some can incur some minor altercations. Generally, polypores are not delectable to eat, but are choice edible. Sometimes it can be difficult to distinguish the rare stalked Polypore from a Bolete, a good field test is to check for whether or not the tube layer can easily detach from the flesh of the cap (this would indicate that you have a Bolete on your hands)!

        The “Chicken Mushroom” (Laetiporus sulphureus) Photo by Ivan Kornev [public domain]

        Another Polypore growing on a decaying long Photo by Camden Dyer

        Chantrelles (Cantharellaceae): Chantrelle’s are well known for being popular edible mushrooms . These mushrooms are generally orange or yellow and convex or vase-shaped. Their lack of gills can be slightly misleading, as the underside of the mushroom will feature gill-like ridges or folds where spores are produced.

        Puffballs (Lycoperdales): Puffballs are iconic for their spherical cap and lack of a stalk (or pseudostalk in some cases), as well as the”puff” of spores that can jet from the top of the mushroom when they are touched. This “smoky” illusion manifests as the puffball’s spore mass (the gleba) transitions from a solid white to a powerdy mass. These Mushrooms are Choice Edible.

        A Common Puffball photo by Camden Dyer

        Stropharia (Strophariaceae): The Stropharia family is most sought after for its hallucenogenic psilocybin mushrooms, although this only accounts for a portion of the species within the family. Stropharias are decomposers, and normally grown on manure or decaying wood. It’s smart to delineate between Stropharias on account of their spore prints, as most other differences are on the microscopic level.

        Boletes (Boletaceae): The Bolete family features around 200 species in North America, most of which are edible, although there are a handful of poisonous species (avoid any Boletes with orange to red pores, especially if they bruise blue). Boletes, stalked mushrooms, are defined by their characteristic lack of gills, where a thick “spongy” layer of tubes designed for dropping spores lies beneath the cap. Some genera of Boletes will feature a partial veil, and the residual ring near the cap and tube layer. It can be handy to check the bruising of Boletes, as an important identifying feature will be their tendency to bruise blue-green, blackish, or reddish when handled or cut.

        A Bolete Photo by Bernard Spragg [Public Domain]

        Russulas (Russulaceae): Russulas generally have bright colors and large circular caps, however they are most notable for their flaky and fragile flesh (picking a Russula mushroom should result in the quaint braking of their gills). You can normally find these mushrooms on the ground growing off of the roots of trees (a Mycorrhizal relationship). The large majority of Russulas are edible, however a few poisonous species have been classified, the general rule of thumb is to stay away from any that have an acrid taste.

        A colorful Russula Photo by “marianne” [Public Domain]

        Pluteus (Pluteaceae): The Pluteus family features a number of mushrooms, many of which can be identified on account of their free gills and deep pink spore prints. Furthermore, most will grow on decaying sources of wood (including deposits of sawdust). Most are considered edible and none have been identified as poisonous although a few species contain psilocybin (however these will bruise bluish like most other psychoactive mushrooms).

        Clavariaceae (Coral Fungus): These are some of the most unique mushrooms you might find out in the wild. Aptly named, Clavariaceae looks a lot like sea coral, and some species can be quite colorful. You’ll find most coral fungi growing off of sources of decaying wood generally in the late summer or beginning of fall. Most are edible and although no species are known to cause serious adverse symptoms, some have the propensity to cause diarrhea or other forms of discomfort in the bowel.

        Crown Coral Fungus (Clavicorona pyxidata) photo by USFWS Midwest Region [Public Domain]

        Cultivating and Harvesting Mushrooms

        Process of Making a Spore Print:

        Spore prints are useful for determining the color of a mushroom’s spores, a helpful metric for identification. An effective spore print consists of the following steps:

        1) Take two pieces of paper, a black and a white piece, and tape them together so that it is half black and half white. (Aluminum foil also works)

        2) Separate the cap from the stem and put the cap, spore surface facing down, in the middle of the two pieces of paper.

        3) Put a drop of water on the cap to facilitate the release of spores and cover the entire function with a bowl and allow anywhere between 2-24 hours for the spores to settle.

        4) If you are inclined to preserve the print, coating it with artist or hairspray will help conserve it.

        Growing Mushrooms:

        Cultivating mushrooms for consumption is no easy task, each species must be maintained at extremely specific conditions (requiring a fair amount of time and effort) to ensure they grow consistently. Here is a general breakdown of the process for growing your own mushrooms:

        1) Decide what type of mushroom you are going to grow and how you are going to grow it. You’ll need to consider factors such as temperature, humidity, amount of sunlight… for each individual species so consider what the weather is like where you live. For instance, oyster mushrooms (arguably the most popular cultivated fungus) need warm temperatures (68-75 F) and a dark, moist room to fruit, so don’t try to cultivate this species in the heat of the summer or the middle of the winter.

        2) An important part of growing mushrooms is having a functional substrate. A substrate is a tempered substance that will allow the mycellium of your fungus to grow as if it were in the wild. There are a number of diffrent substrates that you can use anything from straw to sawdust to woodchips will work (make sure to look up what is most conducive for the specific species that you intend to grow)!

        3) After you’ve created you substrate, it would be wise to treat it. Treating will help remove microscopic organisms that would otherwise act as competitors to your sprouting mycellium. There are four main methods of treating your substrate: – Pasteurization – Lime Bath – Peroxide Treatment – Cold Fermentation —> Look here for the specifics of how to treat your substrate using these methods: https://namyco.org/preparation_of_substrates.php

        4) Now it’s time to inocualte your substrate. You will need to either obtain a culture of your desired species from spores yourself or simply buy spawn online from a mushroom supplier. Once obtained, you’ll mix the spawn with the substrate. The mixed substrate can be placed in a variety of containers (an open tray, a bucket, a large bin) – just make sure that it is either open or perforated (this includes drilling holes in the side of a bucket so that the fungus has space to fruit).

        5) Now it’s time to sit back and wait for your fungus to start fruiting (aka producing mushrooms). Many species will require a change in temperate or location once they begin fruiting, so make sure you have an auxilliary location where you can quickly transfer your fungus for optimal growth.

        The Types of Poisonous Mushrooms

        The lethality and adverse affects of the various toxins within mushrooms varies drastically, listed below are a few of the harmful compounds within mushrooms that you should definetly keep an eye out for, and have some notion of what you can do in a compromising scenario involving poisonous mushrooms. Along with each toxin are a few of the mushrooms listed that contain the toxin. You should research every single mushroom you intead to eat before doing so, epsecially if it comes from one of the families lsited below.

        Amanitin: (Amanita phalloides, Amanita virosa, Amanita verna, Galerina autumnalis)

        As mentioned above, numerous mushrooms from the genus Amanita are imbued with this highly toxic amatoxin. Inadvertently ingesting any form of Amanitin will lead to diarrhea and stomach cramps within 10-24 hours, as it will cause liver cells to burst through cytolysis. Shortly following this bout of discomfort, the symptoms will seemingly fade until approximately a week after ingestion when the much more serious affects begin to set in. Liver and kidney failure, alongside convlusions, comas, and ultimately death will quickly ensue. If you believe that you may have ingested any mushroom containing an amatoxin, your best move would be to test your urine and then immediately have your stomach pumped although medical attention can counterract the affects of the toxin within 1-2 weeks if it has already advanced to a comprimising stage.

        Monomethylhdrazine: (Gymotria esculenta, Gymotria gigas)

        This compound is frequently used in rocket fuel but can also commonly be found in mushrooms of the genus Gyromitra, and manifests more specifically as the poison gyromitrin. The toxin binds within an individual’s central nervous system and can lead to nausea, stomach cramps, diarrhea, and in high enough doses, comas and ultimately death. Yet even with these dangerous symptoms, many Gyromitra mushrooms are quite desirable for their edibility. The toxin is water soluble and can reliably be eliminated by dicing a mushroom into small pieces and then boiling it numerous times.

        Orellanine: (Cortinarius orellanus, Cortinarius gentilis)

        Again, Orellanine can be exceptionally dangerous on account of the fact that symptoms do not begin until 3-14 days after the initial ingestion. The first signs of poisining include polydipsia (prompts excessive thirst) and excessive urination, followed by nausea, bowel irritations, and ultimately kidney failure in extreme scenarios.

        Muscarine: (Amanita muscaria, Inocybe geophylla, Clitocybe dealbata)

        Muscarine is a neurotoxin with symptoms that occur very quickly after ingestion. they are not as severe as some of the others on this list and range from perspiration, nasuea, diarrhea, and blurred vision to, in some exceptional cases normally amongst individuals with preexisting respiratory conditions, death. Atropine can be used to effectively treat a Muscarine poisining, which is highly advisible since the effects can become much more comprimising if the toxin reaches the brain.


        Giant Puffball Mushroom Identification

        Giant puffball mushroom identification is fairly easy. Their physical appearance is usually unmistakable, although there is an important safety rule to follow:

        When you find a puffball, always slice it open lengthwise and check the inside. It should be firm white flesh, with no developing gills. If you see any evidence of gills, disregard immediately. Some species, including the deadly amanita, have a "universal veil" of tissue that surrounds the mushroom when young. This can make it look like a puffball.

        If your mushroom is the size of a soccer ball, it's extremely unlikely that you've found an amanita. However, in the interest of safety you should always cut it open and check. You want the inside to be white and firm, with no other colors or structures present. Always do this!

        Here are some other important puffball mushroom identification features:

        Giant puffballs are aptly named. They are usually quite large, reaching soccer ball size or bigger. They usually have a circumference (distance around) of 4 to 30 inches, although larger ones are not uncommon.

        There is no distinct cap and stem with these mushrooms instead they exist as just large, white globes. They may not be perfectly round.

        Giant puffballs are white with firm white flesh inside. If they appear yellowish or brown is means that the mushroom is about to/has gone to spore, and is not edible anymore.

        Before the mushroom turns brown or becomes too mature, there will be a point when the white the exterior cracks and the white interior shows through. This is a good time to harvest the giant puffball for cooking.

        Spore print:

        Brown, although by the time it releases its spores it's long past the point of being edible.

        • Found in open, grassy fields and meadows, although they can appear in deciduous forests. Many people find them in well-fertilized open areas such as their lawn.
        • Always grow on the ground, never on trees or logs.
        • Grow all over both North America and Europe

        Time of Year:

        Late summer to early fall, usually August through October depending on the region.

        Note that there are other species that are sometimes considered "giant puffballs" besides Calvatia gigantea . Depending on where you live, your mushroom may look a little different. Get in touch with your local mycology club to learn more about what's in your area!


        Identifying Puffball Mushrooms

        There are many species of mushroom that look like puffballs when they’re small, including several toxic species. When cut in half though, it’s easy to identify puffballs. Mushrooms with gills may look round while they’re immature, but their telltale gills will still be developing inside. If a mushroom is a pure white on the inside, with no sign of gills at all, then it’s a puffball.

        Still, there are a few puffballs that are toxic, so a lack of gills isn’t a sure sign that you have an edible puffball mushroom. A lack of gills and a pure white interior are both required to identify edible species. Toxic puffball look-alikes either have gills, or they’re not white on the inside.

        It’s not at all ambiguous. No gills and white means puffball, and gills and any other color is no good. Poisonous puffball species don’t mess around, and a black puffball is a toxic puffball.

        This puffball look alike lacks interior gills, but the flesh is dark black. Edible puffballs are pure white inside. Image Source

        Since puffballs don’t have gills, they have to get their spores out into the world somehow. They do it by converting their entire mushroom bodies into pores, which has me uniquely impressed. Once a puffball has passed the edible stage, the interior will begin to turn yellow or green, and that’s the mushroom entering its reproductive phase.

        Puffballs with a green or yellow interior are no longer edible, but it’s not necessarily an indication that you’ve found a toxic species. It may be a perfectly edible puffball species but you’re just a week too late. The same patch of puffball mushrooms, a week later, will be a completely different find. Mine, in particular, turned a very unambiguous green on the inside and puffed out a cloud of spores as I opened them.

        Overripe Green Puffball Mushroom

        Once puffballs have begun to change color on the inside, do them a favor and step on them. Jumping on a patch of puffball mushrooms pops them open and helps send their spores far and wide. You may have missed out on this patch this time, but dispersing their spores will help you have better luck next time.

        Besides, it’s fun. Overripe puffballs are basically just tough skins full of millions of tiny spores that pop on contact. If you ever stomped packing bubbles as a kid, you’ll love stomping puffballs. My daughter took my invitation to puffball stomping seriously and gladly went to work.

        Stomping overripe puffball mushrooms helps to disperse their spores.

        A potential edible look-alike is shrimp of the woods, though they’re only vaguely similar. Shrimp of the woods mushrooms are a strange aborted mushroom growth that fruits out when honey mushrooms come into contact with another mushroom known as Entoloma abortivum. They’re brownish/white blobs with a pink/white interior, and like puffballs they have no visible gills inside.

        Shrimp of the woods are edible, and here’s a recipe if you find them.


        Cooking Puffballs

        Giant puffball mushrooms are edible. Some say they have no real taste of their own and just absorb the flavors around them like tofu. Others have described their taste as rich, earthy, and nutty. If you're lucky enough to live in an area where they're sold, you can pick one up at the store. The rest of us have to find them in the wild.

        There are two main concerns when harvesting a giant puffball: First, you need to correctly identify the mushroom and second, you need to pick it at the right age. To know if it is at the right age, cut it open. It should have thick, hard, white flesh inside. Do not eat anything with a brown, black, purple, or yellow interior. Eat them soon after harvesting, puffballs do not keep well. The most popular way to eat them is to fry them in oil with batter.


        Different Kinds of Fungi

        Fungi are found to exhibit both sexual and asexual mode of reproduction. They are mainly classified into seven phyla or divisions on the basis of the types of spores, and the nature of the reproductive structures they form.

        Chytridiomycota

        Chytridiomycota can be found all over the world, and they are commonly known as chytrids. The name is derived from the Greek word chytridion, meaning ‘little pot’, which refers to the pot-like structure that contains the unreleased spores. They produce mobile zoospores for propagation. The movement of these spores is facilitated by the single flagellum present on their body. Chytrids are quite distinct from other divisions of fungi, and they are composed of four main clades.

        Blastocladiomycota

        The fungi belonging to the phylum Blastocladiomycota were initially included in a clade that constituted the phylum Chytridiomycota. But recently, on the basis of the results of molecular data and the characteristic of their ultrastructures, they are placed as a sister clade to Zygomycota and Glomeromycota. They can be saprotrophs, and they can exhibit sporic meiosis.

        Neocallimastigomycota

        Initially, Neocallimastigomycota belonged to the phylum Chytridiomycota. The fungi that belong to this phylum are generally found in the digestive tract of herbivorous animals. The fungi of this phylum are anaerobic, i.e., they can thrive in the absence of oxygen. They can exist both on land and in water. Like Chytridiomycotas, they form zoospores that contain single or multiple flagella.

        Zygomycota

        Most of the fungi belonging to the phylum Zygomycota are saprobes. They are commonly known as sugar or pin molds. They can reproduce both sexually and asexually. For sexual reproduction, they produce zygospores, while asexual reproduction is carried out by means of sporangiospores. Some common type of fungi that belong to this phylum are, black bread mold, mucor, rhizomucor, rhizopus, and pilobolus species.

        Glomeromycota

        This phylum contains approximately 200 species of fungi, which mainly reproduce asexually. They draw nutrition from plants, and form arbuscular mycorrhizas with higher plants. The fungus basically penetrates the cortical cells of the roots of a plant, and form arbuscular mycorrhizas. These specialized structures help the plant derive nutrients from the soil. According to scientific estimates, the symbiotic relationship between plants and glomeromycotas dates back to 400 million years.

        Ascomycota

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        Ascomycotas are also known as sac fungi. Ascomycota is the largest phylum of fungi that contains more than 30,000 species. The fungi of this phylum reproduce sexually, and produce ascospores in a sac-like structure, called ascus. However, some species are found to reproduce asexually. Some common Ascomycotas are, mushrooms, morels, yeasts, and truffles. They can be saprotrophs and parasites. They can also establish symbiotic relationships with plants. Aspergillus, Penicillium, and Claviceps are some important genera that belong to the phylum Ascomycota.

        Basidiomycota

        The members of this phylum are also called club fungi or basidiomycetes. They produce basidiospores for reproduction. The spores are produced in a specialized club-like structure, called basidium. The phylum includes several species like mushrooms, rust, and smut fungi.

        Fungi play an important role in the ecosystem as decomposers. Though some of them are pathogens, many of them are widely used for the preparation and preservation of food like wine, beer, bread, cheese, and soy products. Fungi like mushrooms and truffles are an important food source. Several species of fungi are also used to produce antibiotics like penicillin and cephalosporin, and some important vitamins.

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