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Giant Puffballs Maturing

10-17-18 giant puffball IMG_4353Puffballs are aptly named.  When their spores mature and the fruiting body splits open, rain drops, an animal passing by, or the wind cause puffs of spores to burst into the air,  dispersing them far and wide.  While puffballs vary tremendously in size, most would fit in your hand.  Exceptions include Giant Puffballs (Calvatia gigantea), one of which was collected in 1877 in New York state and measured 5 ½ inches by 4 ½ inches by 6 ¾  feet. The greatest recorded weight for a Giant Puffball is 44 pounds.

The production of spores takes place on basidia – club-like structures inside the fruiting body. The number of spores that these fungi produce is impressive. Mycologist Henry Buller estimated that a Giant Puffball measuring 16” x 11” x 8” (a fairly typical size) would contain more than 7 trillion spores.  (If you want to grow your own Giant Puffball so you can count the spores yourself, you can even purchase seeding spores online!)

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4 responses

  1. Giant puffballs are also good to eat when fresh, solid, and white. Slice like bread and fry lightly in butter and garlic, or cube, saute and use in mushroom soups. The consistency is sort of like tofu, as I recall. I haven’t found any in years, but an organism growing along the C&O Canal north of DC in the 1990s had a string of soccer-ball sized fruiting bodies that extended well over half a mile along the trail.

    October 19, 2018 at 8:45 am

  2. Alice Pratt

    I remember seeing one that was about one foot across….

    October 19, 2018 at 9:57 am

  3. Jean Harrison

    I remember picking one in Hartland that was so large I gave big chunks to several neighbors and still had more than enough for my family to eat.

    October 19, 2018 at 12:52 pm

  4. Kathie Fiveash

    I love the grasshopper for scale!

    October 19, 2018 at 3:41 pm

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