Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Puffballs are fungi, they consist of a polyphyletic assemblage of Basidiomycota with gasterothecia (gasteroid basidiocarps) in which the spores are produced internally; that is, the basidiocarp remains closed, or opens only after the spores have been released from the basidia. Their spores are statismospores rather than ballistospores, meaning they are not actively shot off the basidium. Puffballs are called Puffballs because of the cloud of brown dust-like spores which are emitted when the mature fruiting body bursts. Puffballs and similar forms are thought to have evolved repeatedly (that is, in numerous independent events) from hymenomycetes by gasteromycetation, through secotioid stages. Thus Gasteromycetes or Gasteromycetidae are now considered descriptive terms (more properly gasteroid or gasteromycetes) and not valid cladistic terms.
They are common in meadows and woods and on heaths or lawns. When young, their fruiting bodies resemble white balls, sometimes with a short stalk, and are fleshy in texture. If cut across in this state, they show a compact rind enclosing a loose tissue, in the interspaces of which the spores are developed; as the fungus matures it changes to yellowish-brown and brown. When ripe, the rind tears at the apex and the spores escape through the aperture when any pressure is applied to the ball. When white and fleshy, the fungus is edible. The fibrous mass which remains after the spores have escaped has been used for tinder or as a styptic for wounds.
While most puffballs are not poisonous, and the poisonous puffballs are typically quite distinct from the non-poisonous ones, puffballs often look similar to young agarics, especially the deadly Amanitas. It is for this reason that all puffballs gathered in mushroom hunting should be cut in half. Puffballs have an internal 'cup' shape, not a 'T' shape (except for unicapitate ones).
The giant puff-ball, Lycoperdon giganteum, reaches a foot (30 cm) or more in diameter, and is difficult to mistake for any other fungus. It has been estimated that a large specimen of this fungus when mature will produce around 7 × 10¹² spores. If collected before spores have formed, while the flesh is still white, it may be cooked as slices fried in butter, with a strong earthy, mushroom flavour. It does not store well in a freezer - the entire freezer rapidly acquires a strong mushroom odour.
- Sclerodermatales (related to Boletales)
- and various false-truffles (hypogaeic gasteromycetes) related to different hymenomycete orders.
Similarly, the true truffles (Tuberales ) are gasteroid Ascomycota. Their ascocarps are called tuberothecia.
Please note that Wikipedia can not be made liable in case of mistaken identity of fungi
- Homobasidiomycetes at the Tree of Life Web Project.
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