Calvatia gigantea (Batsch: Pers.) Lloyd    
   (= Lycoperdon giganteum Batsch: Pers.)   
   (= Langermannia gigantea (Batsch: Pres.) Rostk.)   
Giant Puffball

Kingdom: Fungi
Phylum: Basidiomycota
Order: Agaricales
(formerly Lycoperdales)

British distribution: Locally frequent in southern England, becoming rarer northwards.
World distribution: Temperate regions, widespread though apparently absent from S.America and western N.America.

Calvatia gigantea, collection of young to old fruitbodies
Calvatia gigantea, collection, British Mycological Society foray, Tunstall Common, Suffolk, 1984. Only the righthand example might still have been edible, though reportedly it proved not to be. Edibility remains only while the spore mass is still white and solid.

The Giant Puffball is well known as one of the largest and most conspicuous of our fungi, and one that is edible when it is still young. It is a saprotroph of nitrogen-rich conditions in gardens, parks, grassland and open scrub. At maturity the whole fungus breaks up to release the spores.

It is a true puffball, formerly grouped with other puffball-like fungi as a 'gasteromycete' and placed in the order Lycoperdales. However, as with other members of this order, it is now known to be closely allied to the true mushrooms (Agaricus) and has been transferred to the order Agaricales. A detailed description is provided by Pegler et al. (1995)

•   Pegler, D.N., Læssøe, T., & Spooner, B.M., (1995). British puffballs, earthstars and stinkhorns, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

© A.J. Silverside
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