The Families of Mushrooms and Toadstools Represented in the British Isles


L. Watson and M. J. Dallwitz


‘Soft Puff-Balls’.

Morphology. The fruit-bodies producing basidia and basidiospores; clustered, or solitary; angiocarpic; a globose or tuberiform gasterocarp (the gleba powdery); tiny to very large; 1–5 cm across, or 6–30 cm across; 1–30 cm high; white or whitish, or cream or yellowish, or straw-coloured, or light brown, or purplish brown, or dark brown, or grey, or blackish; with no particular odour other than an ordinary fungoid one. The gasterocarp with a columella. Capilliteum present. Gleba at first pale. The peridium dehiscent; opening via an apical pore, or opening irregularly (then by apical fragmentation and flaking away). The basidia ‘unmodified’; maturing simultaneously. The basidiospores statismosporic; brown; ornamented (obtusely verruculose).

The hyphae without clamp connections. The hyphal walls lamellate, with a thin, electron-dense outer layer and a relatively thick, electron-transparent inner layer.

Ecology. The fruit-bodies not subterranean; borne on the ground. Found in grassy places, in heathland, in broad-leaved woodland, in mixed woodland, in coniferous woodland, and in places modified by human activities.

British representation. Bovista, Bovistella, Calvatia, Handkea, Lycoperdon, Vascellum.

World representation. 158 species; genera 18. “Widespread”.

Classification. Basidiomycota; Basidiomycetes; Agaricomycetidae; Agaricales.

Comments. Several Lycoperdon species edible (when young, L. giganteum being very good). White-fleshed puff-balls with an initially soft outer skin, which becomes papery at maturity and opens apically by bursting or via a pore.

Illustrations. • Bovista (3 spp.), Handkea (2 spp.), and Vascellum pratense (LH). • Calvatia gigantea, Lycoperdon echinatum, L. molle, L. perlatum, L. pyriforme (LH). • Bovista nigrescens, B. plumbea, Handkea utriformis, Lycoperdon sp. (Berkeley). • Bovista plumbea (from Curtis, 1831).

To view the illustrations with captions giving names in current use, go to the interactive key. This also offers full and partial descriptions, diagnostic descriptions, differences and similarities between taxa, lists of taxa exhibiting or lacking specified attributes, distributions of character states within any set of taxa, source references, and other relevant material.

Cite this publication as: ‘Watson, L., and Dallwitz, M.J. 2008 onwards. The families of mushrooms and toadstools represented in the British Isles. Version: 6th March 2015.’.