Monday, October 8, 2018

Mushroom identification: the pigskin poison puffball or earthball

This rotund little mushroom is Scleroderma citrinum, commonly known as the pigskin poison puffball (from here on referred to as PPP).

Pigskin poison puffballs live near the bases or exposed roots of trees, especially oak, maple and conifers. 

PPPs are a very common mycorrhizal species, usually found at the bases of older trees (though sometimes young trees can have them as well), and often among exposed roots. (Mycorrhizal means they have a symbiotic relationship with plants, in this case trees).

As a child, this was my favorite mushroom. In late September and early October I would run around the neighborhood oaks and give each PPP I found a tentatively gentle squeeze. If it felt ready--less firm and slightly squishy--I would stand up, back off, and run two or three steps to jump on the mushroom as hard as I could, so that it would truly explode in a cloud of spores.