-- field key --

          11 Gasteromycetes (Puffballs & their look-alikes)

                    a. True Puffballs: thin-skinned with spores emerging from a hole opening up in the center of the puffball; on the ground or on wood; immature forms can be confused with various species of Amanita, including the Destroying Angel;, but a cross-section will show the puffball to have an undifferentiated context, whereas a cross-section of an unopened  Amanita “egg” will show the outline of a mushroom cap, gills, and stem; summer and fall.

Gemmed puffball
Lycoperdon perlatum
Lycoperdon perlatum
cut in half

Pear-shaped puffball
Lycoperdon pyriforme

An Amanita in the egg stage looks very similar until you cut it:

Destroying Angel egg
Amanita virosa
egg, cut in half -- on triscuit -- you can see the Amanita outline
 -- a "killer" (fatal) appetizer

                    b. Giant Puffballs: no central hole for spores to escape; instead these fungi flake apart and disintegrate; late summer and fall.

Giant puffball with Art Bailie
Calvatia gigantea
another giant puffball, the Purple-spored puffball
Calvatia cyathiformis

                    c. Earthballs (or False Puffballs):  thick-warty-skinned, usually yellowish brown; cross-section reveals an off-white (immature) to blackish (spore color) interior; on the ground, often under oaks; summer and fall.


                    d. Earthstars: puffball-like with an outer skin that splits into distinct arm-like pieces, revealing the puffball-like interior; the whole sometimes resembling a lunar lander; on the ground; summer and fall.

Barometer earthstar
Astraeus hygrometicus
Rounded earthstar
Geastrum saccatum

                    e. Stalked Puffballs: the one included here has a jelly-like covering about its stalk and a bright red puffball head; fall.

Stalked puffball in aspic
Calostoma cinnabarina

                    f. Bird’s Nest Fungi (or Splash Cups): very small, almost cup-fungus like mushrooms on wood or on the ground, with tiny egg-like spore sacs within the deep cup-like “nests”; spores are flung out by water drops or other disturbance; summer and fall.

White-egg bird's nest
Crucibulum laeve
Splash cup
Cyathus striatus

                    g. Stinkhorns: often colorful and either phallic-shaped or with multiple arms; with spores immersed in a greenish slime that attracts flies who disperse the spores; immature forms are within a membranous egg-like covering, sometimes resembling puffballs; mature phallic forms, when gluten is denuded by flies, can resemble a morel; summer and fall.

Elegant stinkhorn
Mutinus elegans
Stinky squid stinkhorn
Pseudocolus schellenbergiae

Netted stinkhorn
Dictyophora duplicata

Puffball (left) and stinkhorn (in the egg stage) may look similar until cut but the stinkhorn also has a visible cord of mycelium at its base: