PUFFBALLS, EARTHSTARS, and EARTHBALLS of the Pacific Northwest

Copyright © Pacific Northwest Key Council, 2007


These species are covered in three keys. The key to puffballs and earthstars was originally Key to Lycoperdaceae and Geastraceae, but Lycoperdaceae has been absorbed into Agaricaceae it has been renamed Key to Puffballs without long stalks & Earthstars. To be consistent, the Key to Sclerodermataceae has been renamed Key to Earthballs (Sclerodermataceae). The stalked puffballs are covered in Woody Desert Fungi.

The Key to PUFFBALLS without long stalks & EARTHSTARS covers the puffball genera Abstoma, Apioperdon, Bovista, Calbovista, Calvatia, Disciseda, Gastropila, Lycoperdon, Mycenastrum, and Vascellum, and the earthstar genera Geastrum and Astraeus. Sphaerobolus, the cannon-ball fungus, is presently in Geastraceae, but it is considered instead under BIRD'S NEST FUNGI. Earthstars have two layers to the spore case, of which the outer splits in star-like fashion to expose the inner layer. The star-like limbs can curl back to act like feet, sometimes doing so only in wet weather and closing again when weather is dry.

The EARTHBALLS (Sclerodermataceae) key covers Scleroderma and Pisolithus. Earthballs (Scleroderma) differ from puffballs in having a thicker, hard to tough outer rind, and when the spore mass becomes dark, it remains firm rather than becoming soft. There is no sterile base.

The WOODY DESERT FUNGI key discusses stalked puffballs (Tulostoma, Battarrea, Chlamydopus, and Phellorinia). The original Tulostoma key only considers 10 species. More than 30 Tulostoma species are now documented from the Pacific Northwest: these species are listed, but the Tulostoma key needs revision.

These groups have in common that they do not forcibly discharge their spores. The spore mass develops inside the fruitbody and becomes powdery with maturity. After rupture, the wind is able to blow the spores to other locations.


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