Saturday, September 24, 2011

Giant Puffball

I was working along the road when I glanced up the bank and saw what I thought was some trash just across the fence. My first thought was a partially deflated volleyball, but it also had the look of an old bleach jug. When my work was finished I went up to have a look.

It turned out not to be trash of any sort. It may have had the look and size of a volleyball, but the whole mass was the fruiting body of a large fungus. I had found a wonderful specimen of Giant Puffball, Calvatia gigantea.

Giant Puffballs are common at Blue Jay Barrens, but their size is generally closer to that of a softball. My size ten Jungle Boots are exactly 12 inches from heel to toe, so they come in handy for impromptu measurements. I was trying to figure out how my puffball compared to the one Cheryl saw, but I don’t have a boot to binocular conversion table.

The skin looks much like a cured animal hide and can be quite tough. Giant Puffballs have an excellent taste, but it’s the soft interior that’s consumed. The skin is peeled and discarded.

There was a second puffball nearby. This one had a hard time expanding beneath a mat of vines. A specimen of this size can produce many billions of spores that can get into the air currents and circle the globe. It’s interesting that so many fungi, whose spores have the ability to follow the jet stream and end up anywhere in the northern hemisphere, have definite ranges in which they are found. I guess some species have such specific conditions necessary for the spores to begin development that only limited areas of the globe can offer the necessary environment. It’s still amazing to think that the spore that began this fungus may have traveled around the world before coming to rest in this field.


  1. Hey first thought when I see these large fungi I wonder how big they can get...I have never forgotten the movie "The Blob" ooooh watch out that some morning it hasn't incombused your house ... eeeeks : }}
    Amazing find really and unbelievable it's travels!!

  2. Hi, Grace. I once read that the record Giant Puffball was over 8 feet in diameter. That's hard to imagine. I hope you’re referring to the original version of The Blob. That was a favorite of mine. “CO2, Dave. CO2.”

  3. Steve ..8 feet ..not in my back yard if I can help it hahaha!!
    Original...of course 1958..? of to the Northpole with it!!