Pigskin Puffball (Common Earthball)

Pigskin Puffball

Scleroderma citrinum (Scleroderma aurantium)

Rounded, warted, yellowish brown ball; flesh blackish purple. Grows on the ground, on wood debris, and near trees in woods. July–October. Fruiting body rounded to flattened; outside yellowish brown; when very young, the inside is nearly white, but soon becomes marbled, then purplish, then blackish with age; texture leathery, thick-skinned, with coarse scales or warts; there is a pore at the top. Spore print blackish brown. Spores magnified are round, ornamented. Unlike edible puffballs, the pigskin puffball has a thick, rindlike skin.

Lookalikes: Pear-shaped puffball (Lycoperdon pyriforme) and gem-studded puffball (L. perlatum) are both white on the inside when young.

Fruiting body width: 1–4 inches; height: 1–2 inches.
Habitat and conservation: 
Grows singly or in groups of up to many on the ground, on wood debris, and near trees in woods.
Distribution in Missouri: 
Poisonous. This puffball can cause upset stomach, nausea, and vomiting.
Life cycle: 
This species spends most of the year as a network of fungal cells (mycelium) connected to tree roots, in a symbiotic relationship with the tree. (Many trees fare poorly without their fungal partners.) When ready to reproduce, the mycelium develops the “puffball” aboveground. The “ball” is actually a spore sac. When immature, the spore sac is solid inside, but as it matures the inside changes into a mass of powdery spores. The spores puff out from a pore that forms at the top of the sac.
Human connections: 
Many inedible and even poisonous fungi have important roles in nature, benefiting humans indirectly by keeping forests productive and healthy. They each also possess a strange beauty in color and form that we can enjoy.
Ecosystem connections: 
This is one of many fungus species that help nourish forest trees through symbiosis. The netlike fibers of the fungus cover the surface of a tree’s roots, increasing the surface area and the roots’ ability to absorb water and nutrients. In return, the tree shares nutrients with the fungus.
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