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Re: OT-CHAT: fungus among us

  • Subject: Re: [iris-talk] OT-CHAT: fungus among us
  • From: Bill Shear <wshear@hsc.edu>
  • Date: Fri, 28 Sep 2001 09:14:29 -0400

On 9/27/01 10:35 PM, "Dennis Kramb" <dkramb@badbear.com> wrote:

> While strolling along one of my iris beds today I was startled to
> find two giant "blobs".  At first I thought it was garbage blown in
> by the wind, but when I poked it and it didn't move, I realized it
> was some kind of mushroom or fungus.  A puffball, maybe?  Anyway,
> walking around the yard some more I found another out in the middle
> of the lawn.  These things are huge (about the size of a football).
> Can anybody tell me what they might be?  I don't know much at all
> about fungusesses.
 Hi Dennis.  From your description I would suspect that these are indeed
puffballs.  They appear this time of year and can grow to enormous size in
just a day.  They do no harm to gardens, though it is unusual to see them
there.  I usually find them in open grassy areas, or along the roadside.

The vast bulk of the organism is underground, in the form of billions of
threads called a mycelium.  The puffball is only the above-ground fruiting
body of the fungus.  If we could separate the mycelium from the soil and
weigh it, it could go to nearly a ton for a very old one.  Evidently these
and other fungi can live a very long time, even centuries.  One fungus (not
a puffball) is said to cover a vast area (several square miles?) in Michigan
and is probably the largest, and maybe the oldest, living thing on earth.
Fungi make a living by absorbing dissolved food from the soil or from a
dead, decaying host.  A few attack living creatures.

Our local puffballs are edible.  I have been known to nearly cause a traffic
crash by suddenly stopping for large puffballs along the roadside.  If you
catch them while they are fresh and all the inner flesh is snowy white, they
can be sliced and grilled with garlic butter.  Delicious!  But before trying
some, check with a local mushroom authority.  NEVER EAT A FUNGUS THAT YOU

However, they quickly turn dry and brown inside and the tissue is converted
into billions of spores.   Then the puffball cracks open at the top, and
will "puff" when stepped on--the "smoke" is spores.  A moderate-sized
puffball would produce enough spores to place one spore on every square foot
of the state of Ohio.

Fascinating fungi!

Bill Shear

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