Fun Facts About Fungi

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Giant Puffballs


Puffballs are round or pear-shaped fruiting bodies that contain spores. They sit directly on the ground or on rotten wood. They range from golf ball size to as large as a watermelon. A big specimen of the giant puffball (Calvatia gigantea) can be almost two feet long and contain 7,000,000,000,000 (7 trillion) spores. For comparison, there are about 31.6 million seconds in a year. If you held your breath for 7 trillion seconds, you’d be breathless for 221, 817 years!

The giant puffball cracks open to allow the wind to carry away its spores. Other puffballs have a small opening at the top. The wind may suck spores out of these openings like smoke drawn from a chimney. The spores can also be “puffed” out of the opening when the fruiting body is hit by raindrops (earth stars, for example).

Puffball Relatives

Lycoperdon perlatum
 Giant Puffball   Earth Star      Puffball

The spores are incredibly tiny. Each spore is 3.5 to 5.5 microns (0.00014 to 0.00019 inches) in diameter. They are bone dry, making a mature giant puffball a sack of fine powder. The Lakota tribe of Native Americans used this clean dry material in their medicine. They would pack large wounds with puffball spores to slow bleeding and help blood clot.

Giant puffballs are found in the central and eastern USA and Canada. During late Summer and Fall, look for them in meadows, under small stands of trees, and around forest openings.

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Last update: 2 Sep 96. © 1996, Robert Fogel, Ivins, UT 84738. Edited by Patricia Rogers.