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earthball, puffball

(pl. earthballs, puffballs)

Terms discussed: endoperidium, exoperidium, mesoperidium, peridium (pl. peridia)




Image of Calvatia gigantea from Eugen Gramberg (1913) Pilze unserer Heimat
Calvatia gigantea
Puffballs and earthballs are fungi whose fruiting bodies consist of little else except a solid mass of spores, called a gleba. Some of these grow to quite a large size, while others are usually less than an inch across.

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Puffball is used as an informal term for the members of the family Lycoperdaceae, which all start out with white gleba that becomes yellow and squishy, and finally dries up and becomes powdery and dark brown (or, in one case, purplish).

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Image of Scleroderma citrinum from Eugen Gramberg (1913) Pilze unserer Heimat
Scleroderma citrinum
Earthball is an informal term for the members of the genus Scleroderma, which have a harder gleba that also starts out white, but quickly turns purplish-black. The toughest a puffball's gleba gets is when it's still very fresh and white inside; but even then it's not much tougher than firm tofu. An earthball's gleba is more like a tough cheese.

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Image of Tulostoma brumale from Jean Louis Émile Boudier (1904 - 1909) Icones mycologicae ou iconographie des champignons de France, principalement Discomycètes
Tulostoma  brumale
Some desert puffballs have a stalk, to keep the developing spore mass away from the hot sand. There are also beautiful temperate stalked puffballs in the genusCalostoma, but their stalk usually remains underground.

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Image of Lycoperdon from Eugen Gramberg (1913) Pilze unserer Heimat
Lycoperdon
The gleba of a puffball or earthball is surrounded by a covering called a peridium. In many fungi, the peridium is ornamented with scales or spines. The earthballs tend to have only one layer to their peridium; puffballs often have two: an ornamented outer peridium, called and exoperidium, and a smooth inner layer, called an endoperidium. Sometimes they even have a third layer in between, which is called a mesoperidium.

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Photo of Cyathus striatus by John Denk
Cyathus striatus
Peridium is a general term for any protective layer that encloses a mass of spores. Thus, the outer "nest" of bird's-nest fungi is also called a peridium.

 

 


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