Sunday, November 6, 2011

More Spores

For a second time, this Giant Puffball fungus has fooled me into thinking it was a piece of trash. The first time, I mistook the fresh fungus for an old volleyball. This time it looked like a piece of foam rubber cushion with a deteriorating plastic cover. The ridiculous part is the fact that I was doing the exact same thing, mowing along the road, and spotted the puffball from the exact same angle. In a month's time it has gone from a fleshy mass to a pile of dust. It’s a fascinating natural event, but it still reminds me of trash.

The mass of spores looks more like a clogged lint trap or an abused air filter than it does the source of millions of possible puffballs.

Here are the remains of the Tough Puffball I found last month. This was growing on one of my mowed walking trails and I probably would have mowed it over if the grass had done any growing since then. A small portion of the puffball’s upper skin has remained in place, but most of the spore mass has been laid bare to the elements.

Despite its ragged condition, the breeze continues to strip spores from the surface and carry them aloft for distribution in far locales. It can sometimes take months for the last of the spores to disappear. Winds this fall have come from all directions, so these spores have had the opportunity to travel many places far from their origin.

Wind isn’t the only dispersal mechanism transporting spores from this site. Raindrops splash spores onto the surrounding soil. Heavy rains fill the base of the puffball with water that carries spores as it flows off through gaps in the deteriorating side walls. Floating spores may be filtered from the water as it flows overland or they may be deposited by floodwater far downstream.

By next spring there should be nothing left here but an empty shell. It’s hard to predict how much area will ultimately receive spores from this one puffball. Under ideal conditions, it’s possible that the spores could cover the globe. Maybe this is my way of sharing a little bit of Blue Jay Barrens with the rest of the world. Let me know if any of my spores show up in your neighborhood.


  1. Fascinating. I would have thought it was trash, too, and would have mumbled to myself about the terrible people who litter as I moved to pick it up.... ;)

  2. Hi Steve...looks like a cow flap pie in the first one...until you started digginginto it. hahaha!!
    Interesting stuff!!

  3. Hi Lois. I realized my mistake before I started mumbling.

    Hi Grace. It is about time for some of the neighborhood cows to stop by and leave me a few pies.