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Lycoperdon pulcherrimum

[ Basidiomycetes > Agaricales > Lycoperdaceae > Lycoperdon . . . ]

by Ron Meyers

Of the many puffballs found in the United States, Lycoperdon pulcherrimum certainly must be the most lovely. Indeed, its Latin name means "beautiful." While it is not found every year, it is not considered uncommon. Still, it is a pleasant experience when we do occasionally find it.


Ecology: Saprobic. Found alone or in small groups in humus or on rotten wood during summer and fall under hardwoods. The mushroom seems to have a fairly general distribution. It is not uncommon in eastern North America, but it is more common in the southern states. It has been collected frequently in Kansas and California.

Fruiting body: Roughly pear-shaped with a narrow, stem-like base. 2-4 cm broad, 2-5 cm tall. The outer layer has a dense coating of long (3-6 mm), slender white spines. Numerous bundles are formed by the joining of spines at the tips. As the mushroom matures, the spines are shed, leaving a smooth, shiny, brown to dark purple-brown surface. A small opening forms at the top for the discharge of spores. The stem makes up about one half of the fruiting body, and is chambered and white inside when young, becoming brown to purple-brown in age. The flesh is white and firm when young, becoming yellow and then dark purple-brown and powdery as the mushroom matures.

Microscopic Features: Spores 4-4.5 µ; round; minutely spiny; with a 10-13 µ tail.

REFERENCES: Berkeley and Curtis. (Smith, 1951; Ramsey, 1978 / 2003; Smith, Smith & Weber, 1981; Weber & Smith, 1985; Arora, 1986; McKnight & McKnight, 1987.)

This mushroom could be confused with Lycoperdon echinatum (also known as Lycoperdon americanum) but while L. echinatum has white spines when young, the spines turn dark brown as the mushroom matures; when the spines fall off they leave a pattern of scars on the underlying skin. In my experience, the two species appear to intergrade in Kansas. Specimens whose spines turn brown but do not leave a network of scars are common.

Further Online Information:

Lycoperdon pulcherrimum in Smith, 1951


Lycoperdon pulcherrimum

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Meyers, R. (2003, October). Lycoperdon pulcherrimum. Retrieved from the MushroomExpert.Com Web site: