Welcome to Mushroom Monday for April 16, 2018
Puffballs are a specialized group of mushrooms that produce spheroidal fruitbodies. They belong to a group called Gastromycetes meaning “stomach fungi.” In this group, spores are produced internally in sacs that are generally more-or-less oval. Spores are not forcibly discharged as in the gilled mushrooms, but instead the outer membranes (the peridium) open with pores, or by disintegrating, and the powdery spores are released by wind, or the impact of rain or animals stepping on them. They are called puffballs because clouds of brown dust-like spores are emitted when the mature fruitbody bursts, or in response to impacts.
To illustrate one of our common regular puffballs, Lycoperdon perlatum (Gemmed Puffball) is a very common one found in humus-rich soils. It is generally tan colour and features conical spines, at least when young (they can wear off in the rain). They are edible when white inside, but the flavour is bland. True puffballs do not have a spore case elevated on stalks.
There are four genera of stalked puffballs and two of these are found in and around Kamloops. One is Battarrea phalloides (Desert Stalked Puffball) and it is so strange looking that it will catch your eye if you walk near one.
It has a woody, slender, and shaggy looking stem that may be up to 40 centimetres tall. The spore case sits atop the stem. They begin development as an egg-like sac in the soil that is completely encased in an outer wall. As the stem elongates, the wall is ruptured with part of it remaining at the base (the volva) and the other part looking like a cap on the spore case. At maturity, the spores are dispersed by the wind, aided by their elevated position on the stalk.
Battarrea phalloides is found in dry, sandy soil and on sagebrush plains throughout the world. It occurs in and around Kamloops and has been spotted on McArthur Island near the walking path around the old golf course. Be on the lookout when you are on the Island! You can learn more about this fascinating mushroom here.
Tulostoma brumale (Common Stalked Puffball) is another rather strange looking stalked puffball but it is tiny compared to Battarrea. With the spore case being only about a centimetre across, you need to be walking slowly and looking carefully to spot it. They are very common in our area in sand and gravel along roadsides and in grass. They come up on their stalks in fall but are very tough and resilient and overwinter under the snow with little deterioration. Thus, you can find them any time of year. Look carefully along road edges in the grass and you have a good chance of spotting them. The white spore case makes them stand out.