Subterranean, Aerial Puffballs

Birding is soooo different from mushrooming. I mean, I use my ears, stand up strait, look at the sky… I never have to sneak up on a mushroom but even though I can hold one in my hand, smell it, look at it under the microscope, it can be harder to ID than a blurry photo of a far away bird I saw the back of for less than a second. It’s because there are hundreds of thousands of mushrooms. (and probably only 200 birds around here) Millions of mushrooms! And most of them have never been scientifically described so they’re not in any book.

Buried Stalked Puffball (Tulostoma)

I’ve been stalking mushrooms obsessively for 15 years (what?) and I can still find a totally new to me mushroom growing in my backyard. And not just any mushroom, a weird mushroom that I’ve always noticed in the books and imagined them growing in far off deserts and sand dunes. Today, there they were, in my back yard, in the rain, in early April before any of the other mushrooms are up.

These little muffins are Puffballs. Subterranean, aerial Puffballs. They start as a fleshy mushroom underground and as they mature all the flesh dries and turns to a spore mass. They probably have millions of spores each. Then a little hole forms on top with a lip for spore liberation. Then a stalk grows, elevating the Puffball into the sky. When I saw them it was raining and rain drops where hitting the outside of the ball, disturbing the pressure inside and ejecting puffs of golden dust into the world.

I wonder how long they’ve been here. I hope those spores make lots more.

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