The pouch fungi include all fungi which have their spores or seeds in closed chambers until maturity - that is, until they are fully ripe and ready to be scattered by winds or animals. Collectively, the closed chambers are called the gleba, and this gleba is surrounded by a definite rind (peridium), which, in different puffballs, has various and characteristic ways of opening to permit the spores to escape.
The Lycoperdales, known in different parts of the country as smokeballs, devil's snuffboxes, puffballs, etc., have their spores enclosed until maturity in closed chambers, surrounded by a continuous skin or peridium. They spend most of their lifetime underground, getting their food from decaying vegetable matter, and are for this reason called subterranean saprophytes. When they are about ready to scatter their spores, they emerge from the ground, and are then to be seen in pastures, and on fallen logs in woods and along roadsides. Every country child has pinched them to see the " smoke" rise, little knowing that he was doing for the puffball just that for which it had come into existence- scattering its spores far and wide to grow into new plants.
The plants of the puffballs, the mycelial threads, form an extensive network of white threads in the decaying vegetable matter in which they grow ; then little balls appear on the white threads, as in the Agaricalcs, with the difference that they increase in size without forming gills and stem. The balls have a fleshy interior, cheesy and white at first, but afterwards yellowish or pinkish, gradually darkening until the whole or a part Puffballs of the fleshy interior becomes filled with dust-like spores, when the rind of the ball breaks to let the spores escape.
Sometimes the wall breaks off in scales ; sometimes it is punctured at the summit with one hole, sometimes with several, and sometimes it splits and turns back to form a star on the ground. Sometimes the balls contain elastic threads (capillitium), which help to push out the spores, and sometimes they do not. Sometimes there are threads massed at the base without spores in them, so that they form a sterile base or sterile subgleba, and sometimes the threads are massed to form a central column (columella) in the interior of the ball. These characters, with others, form the basis on which the puffballs are separated into the genera Lycoperdon, Geaster, Calvatia, Bovistella, Bovista, and Calostoma.