Puffballs 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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