The Calvatias are puffballs of large size, all with thick cordlike mycelium rooting from the base. They all eject their spores through irregular openings in the upper part of the peridium, and they all have a dense network of branching threads (capillitium) traversing the tissues ofthesporebearingport i o n, the gleba. These threads are elastic, and project the spores from the rind or case as they twist and turn. The sterile portion, the subgleba, is definitely limited and concave above.
Brain-shaped Calvatia (Edible)
Peridium or Pouch - Very large, obovoid or top-shaped, depressed above.
Bark or Outer Coat - Smooth, very thin and fragile, easily peeling off. Pallid or greyish, often with a reddish tinge ; often Genus Calvatia wrinkling to resemble somewhat the surface of the brain, whence its name craniformis.
Section of Calvatia.
Brain Puffball (Edible) (calvitia craniformis, Schw.).
Inner Coat - Thin, ochreous to bright brown, velvety, extremely fragile. The upper part breaks into fragments.
Subgleba - Occupies half the peridium; cup-shaped above, persistent.
Spores - Greenish yellow, then olivaceous. Globose, even, with minute pedicel.
Threads - Long.
Habitat - On ground in woods.
Giant Puffball (Edible)
Peridium or Pouch - Very large, 8-15 inches in diameter, or larger. Globose, depressed globose, or obovoid, with a thick cord-like root.
Bark or Outer Coat - Flocculous or nearly smooth, thin, and fragile. White or greyish, becoming yellowish or brown; usually remaining closely adherent to the inner coat.
Inner Coat - Thin and fragile after maturity, breaking up into fragments.
Subgleba - Shallow or none.
Spores and Threads - Greenish yellow, then brownish olive. Spores globose, threads long and branched.
Time - August to September.
Habitat - Grassy places.
Calvatia maxima has been known as Lycoperdon giganteum, and also as Lycoperdon maxima. It has been transferred from the genus Lycoperdon to the genus Calvatia because it ruptures the peridium irregularly to discharge its spores, instead of forming a small hole at the apex, as other Lycoperdons do.
It is asserted on good authority that the giant puffball has been found with a diameter of three feet and a weight of forty-seven pounds. The giant puffball is considered by many as a choice article of food when the flesh is white. It is said that if the flesh of a growing puffball is cut or injured the wounds will fill up with new tissue. It will be interesting for some one to try this experiment.
In the days before matches came into use, the dry, spongy threads were used as tinder to catch the sparks which flew from the flint-stone when it was struck for fire, and the spore-dust was used to stanch the flow of blood.
Cup-shaped Puffball (Edible)
Peridium - Large, top-shaped.
Bark or Outer Coat - Thin, adherent, smooth, and continuous, easily peeling off.
Inner Coat - Pale to dark purple, loosely woven, fragile at maturity, breaking up into fragments from above downward.
Subgleba - Short and thick, with cord-like root, persistent, cup-shaped, occupying 1/3-1/2 the peridium.
Spores and Threads - Violet to dark purple. Spores globose and warted, threads long.
Time - August to October.
Habitat - On the ground in meadows and pastures.
The old name was Lycoperdon cyathiforme. Cyathiforme, meaning cup-shaped, is suggested by the cup-like base which remains after the dispersion of the spores and threads (capillitium).