Calvatia gigantea, commonly known in English as the giant puffball, is a puffball mushroom commonly found in meadows, fields, and deciduous forests in late summer and autumn. It is found in temperate areas throughout the world.[1]

Giant puffball
Giant puffball with a 11.7 x 5.4 cm GPS receiver for scale
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Fungi
Division: Basidiomycota
Class: Agaricomycetes
Order: Agaricales
Family: Agaricaceae
Genus: Calvatia
C. gigantea
Binomial name
Calvatia gigantea

Langermannia gigantea
(Batsch ex Pers.) Rostk.

Calvatia gigantea
View the Mycomorphbox template that generates the following list
Glebal hymenium
No distinct cap
Hymenium attachment is not applicable
Lacks a stipe
Spore print is brown
Ecology is saprotrophic
Edibility is choice or inedible

Description edit

According to the Missouri Department of Conservation, Calvatia gigantea can grow 20-50 centimeters wide and 20-50 cm high.[2] First Nature explains that this fungus "can grow to 80 cm diameter and weigh several kilograms."[3] A specimen weighing over 23 kilograms was recorded on Robinson-Superior Treaty Territory in what is currently known as Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada.[4]

The inside of a mature giant puffball (which is inedible) is greenish brown. The interior of an immature puffball (which is edible) is white.[5][6] The Lovesick Native Women's Association explains that an overripe puffball "will fall apart when touched or if cut open" and should be discarded.[7]

Indeed, the fruiting body of a puffball mushroom develops within a few weeks and soon begins to decompose and rot (at which point it is dangerous to eat). Unlike most mushrooms, all the spores of the giant puffball are created inside the fruiting body; large specimens can easily contain several trillion spores. Spores are yellowish, smooth, and 3–5 μm in size.[5][6]

Similar fungi edit

Giant puffballs resemble the earthball (Scleroderma citrinum). The latter are distinguished by a much firmer, elastic fruiting body, and having an interior that becomes dark purplish-black with white reticulation early in development. Scleroderma citrinum is poisonous and may cause mild intoxication.

Taxonomy edit

The classification of this species has been revised in recent years. First Nature explains that "puffballs, earthballs, earthstars, stinkhorns and several other kinds of fungi were once thought to be related and were known as the gasteromycetes or 'stomach' fungi, because the fertile material develops inside spherical or pear-shaped fruitbodies." However, many mycologists now believe that "the gasteromycetes" do not share single ancestor; they are polyphyletic.[8]

Today, some authors place the giant puffball and other members of genus Calvatia in order Agaricales. The giant puffball has also been placed in two other genera, Lycoperdon and Langermannia, in years past. The current view is that the giant puffball is Calvatia.[9]

Conservation status edit

The giant puffball is widespread and common in the UK. It is protected in parts of Poland and is of conservation concern in Norway.[1]

Uses edit

Puffball mushrooms on sale at a market in England, showing slices uniform and white all the way through

Cooking edit

The large white mushrooms are edible when young,[5][6] as are all true puffballs, but can cause digestive upset if the spores have begun to form—as indicated by the color of the flesh being yellowish or greenish-brown instead of pure white.

Immature gilled species still contained within their universal veil can be lookalikes for puffballs. To distinguish puffballs from such poisonous fungi, they must be cut open; edible puffballs will have a solid white interior and have "no gills or other imperfections".[10][11]

Medical edit

Puffballs are a known styptic and have long been used as wound dressing, either in powdered form or as slices 3 cm thick.[12] Authors Hui-Yeng Y. Yap, Mohammad Farhan Ariffeen Rosli, et al. found evidence to suggest Calvatia gigantea was "traditionally used by American Indians, Nigerian and German folks" for this purpose. The authors, however, did not specify the preferred form of wound dressing (e.g., powdered or sliced). [13]

References edit

  1. ^ a b "Calvatia gigantea (giant puffball)", Discover plants and fungi,, archived from the original on 2016-12-22, retrieved 8 August 2015
  2. ^ "Giant Puffball". Missouri Department of Conservation. Retrieved 2023-12-01.
  3. ^ "Calvatia gigantea, Giant Puffball, identification". Retrieved 2023-12-01.
  4. ^ Star, Signe Langford Special to the (2020-09-20). "It's Giant Puffball mushroom season. Here's how to identify and prepare them". Toronto Star. Retrieved 2023-12-01.
  5. ^ a b c Arora, David (1986). Mushrooms Demystified. Berkeley, California: Ten Speed Press. pp. 158–159. ISBN 978-0-89815-169-5.
  6. ^ a b c Bessette, Alan E. (1997). Mushrooms of Northeastern North America. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press. pp. 453–454. ISBN 978-0-8156-0388-7.
  7. ^ Lovesick Lake Native Women's Association (1985). The Rural and Native Heritage Cookbook (1 ed.). Burleigh Falls, Ontario: Paul-Printing (Community Publication). p. 101. ISBN 0-9692-255-0-4.
  8. ^ "Calvatia gigantea, Giant Puffball, identification". Retrieved 2023-12-01.
  9. ^ Volk, First. "Tom Volk's Fungus of the Month for August 1998". Retrieved 6 October 2012.
  10. ^ Meuninck, Jim (2017). Foraging Mushrooms Oregon: Finding, Identifying, and Preparing Edible Wild Mushrooms. Falcon Guides. p. 38. ISBN 978-1-4930-2669-2.
  11. ^ Star, Signe Langford Special to the (2020-09-20). "It's Giant Puffball mushroom season. Here's how to identify and prepare them". Toronto Star. Retrieved 2023-12-01.
  12. ^ Davies, Barry (2001). SAS mountain and arctic survival. London: Virgin. p. 87. ISBN 9780753505991.
  13. ^ Yap, Hui-Yeng Y.; Ariffeen Rosli, Mohammad Farhan; Tan, Soon-Hao; Kong, Boon-Hong; Fung, Shin-Yee. "The Wound Healing Potential of Lignosus rhinocerus and Other Ethno-myco Wound Healing Agents". Mycobiology. 51 (1): 1–15. doi:10.1080/12298093.2022.2164641. ISSN 1229-8093. PMC 9946334. PMID 36846625.

Further reading edit

External links edit