Major Groups > Puffballs & Others > Pisolithus tinctorius


Pisolithus tinctorius

[ Basidiomycetes > Boletales > Sclerodermataceae > Pisolithus . . . ]

by Michael Kuo

This amazing mushroom starts out looking like a tough, baseball-sized puffball, but soon develops into a minor monstrosity that sticks up from the ground like a dusty stump. When young its interior is filled with pea-sized spore packages ("peridioles") embedded in a blackish ooze, but these begin to disintegrate from the top down and the thin outer rind breaks apart to expose the interior, releasing spores (often the area surrounding Pisolithus tinctorius is covered with cinnamon brown powder).

Pisolithus tinctorius is a mycorrhizal fungus that is not at all picky about its plant and tree partnerships. For this reason it is frequently used by foresters and gardeners to assist plant or tree growth (for impressive photos of plants and trees grown with and without the mycorrhizal support of fungi, see Mycelium Running, by Paul Stamets [2005]). It also grows well in poor soil, sandy areas, and so on, making it an even more valuable fungus for plant life.


Ecology: Mycorrhizal with just about anything that makes roots; growing alone, scattered, or in small groups; often found in gravel, sandy soil, in ditches, on lawns, and so on; summer and fall; widely distributed in North America but more commonly found on the West Coast and in the southeast.

Fruiting Body: 5-30+ cm high and up to 20 cm across; ball-shaped when young, stretching out with maturity to become top-shaped, tooth-shaped (like a giant molar), stumplike, or just plain odd; the surface at first whitish to yellowish, purplish, or brownish--but soon breaking up to expose the interior; outer rind thin and fragile; interior at first packed with pea-sized spore packages embedded in blackish gel, disintegrating from the top downward to become a mass of cinnamon brown spore dust; base with a rudimentary stem or sterile portion; often with yellowish rhizomorphs attached; odor at first mild, becoming fragrant and, in maturity, foul.

Microscopic Features: Spores 7-12 µ; round or nearly so; with spines up to 2 µ long.

Pisolithus arrhizus is a synonym, according to many authors.

REFERENCES: (Montagne, 1840) Fischer, 1900. (Saccardo, 1888; Coker & Couch, 1928; Smith, 1951; Smith, Smith & Weber, 1981; Weber & Smith, 1985; Arora, 1986; Phillips, 1991/2005; Lincoff, 1992; Metzler & Metzler, 1992; Horn, Kay & Abel, 1993; Miller & Miller, 2006.)

Further Online Information:

Pisolithus tinctorius at Tom Volk's Fungi
Pisolithus tinctorius at MykoWeb
Pisolithus tinctorius in Smith, 1951
Pisolithus arrhizus at Roger's Mushrooms


Pisolithus tinctorius

Pisolithus tinctorius

Pisolithus tinctorius

Pisolithus tinctorius

© MushroomExpert.Com

Cite this page as:

Kuo, M. (2006, November). Pisolithus tinctorius. Retrieved from the MushroomExpert.Com Web site: