|Major Groups > Puffballs > Vascellum curtisii|
by Michael Kuo
This tiny, spiny puffball looks like it should be easily identified, but there are several close look-alikes, including Lycoperdon pulcherrimum. Ultimately, I confirm my identifications of Vascellum curtisii with a microscope (see microscopic features below)--but the mushroom's habit of growing in clusters in grass is a good field character.
Vascellum curtisii usually maxes out at around 2 cm, and its long, soft spines are easily rubbed off. By maturity it often has a more or less smooth appearance, and the spines have been reduced to a whitish dust. It is shaped like a small ball, but often becomes contorted as it tries to grow should-to-shoulder with its clustered companions. Its interior is white and fleshy at first, but turns into an olive-colored dust with maturity.
Ecology: Saprobic; growing alone, scattered, gregariously, or (usually) in clusters; in grass, often in disturbed-ground areas like ditches; late summer and fall; widely distributed in North America.
Fruiting Body: Shaped like a small ball, 1-2 cm across, but frequently mis-shapen as a result of clustered growth; densely spiny when young; spines up to 5 mm long, often joined at their tips, and easily rubbing off; in maturity often fairly smooth, with a powedery coating; white becoming pale brown; developing a small hole at the top, through which spore dust escapes; with a tiny basal area or appearing merely pinched together at the bottom; with a white, fleshy interior at first; later with yellowish to olive granular flesh and eventually filled with brownish or purplish brown spore dust.
Microscopic Features: Spores 3-3.5 µ; round or nearly so; minutely spiny. Capillitial threads 3-7 µ wide; branching; mostly colorless in KOH and thin-walled (paracapillitium), but true capillitium also present.
Lycoperdon curtisii and Lycoperdon wrightii are synonyms.
REFERENCES: (Berkeley, 1859) Kreisel, 1963. (Coker & Couch, 1928; Smith, 1951; Ramsey, 1978 / 2003; Smith, Smith & Weber, 1981; Kreisel, 1993; Barron, 1999; Roody, 2003; McNeil, 2006; Miller & Miller, 2006.) Herb. Kuo 09210504.
Lycoperdon marginatum is similar, but its outer skin flakes off in patches with maturity. Lycoperdon pulcherrimum usually grows in woods, under hardwoods. Both of these species have "true," thick-walled capillitial threads (see microscopic features above).
Further Online Information:
Lycoperdon curtisii in Smith, 1951
Cite this page as:
Kuo, M. (2006, February). Vascellum curtisii. Retrieved from the MushroomExpert.Com Web site: http://www.mushroomexpert.com/vascellum_curtisii.html