Lycoperdon echinatum: The Ultimate Mushroom Guide
About The Lycoperdon echinatum Mushroom
Lycoperdon echinatum is a type of puffball mushroom in the genus Lycoperdon. The saprobic species has been found in Africa, Europe, Central America, and North America, where it grows on soil in deciduous woods, glades, and pastures.
This mushroom has a small, globe-shaped head on a very short stipe. The soft reddish-brown spines are in groups of threes. The spines can fall off in maturity, leaving a net-like pattern of scars on the underlying surface.
Initially white, the puffballs turn a dark brown as they mature, at the same time changing from nearly round to somewhat flattened.
The fruit bodies are edible when young when the interior is white and firm and before it has turned into a powdery brown mass of spores. Laboratory tests have shown that extracts of the fruit bodies can inhibit the growth of several bacteria that are pathogenic to humans.
Other names: Spiny Puffball, The Spring Puffball.
Lycoperdon echinatum Identification
2-6 x 3-7 cm, globulous, pyrform, with short and conical stem; peridium covered by 3-5 cm long spines, initially grouped in pyramidal tufts then dividing in thinner groups; when old they detach and leave on the peridium a drawing formed by more or less regular small circles which, overall, form a sort of a reticulum; the spines are initially of hazel then dark brown colored.
In the upper part of the carpophore, when ripe, an orifice opens from which to get out the spores.
Represents the fertile part, tender, spongy, white to yellow-olive, then brown; the sub-gleba (sterile part), has a cream color with brown shades.
When ripe, the gleba becomes pulverulent, due to the maturation of the spores which get out from an orifice opening at the apex of the peridium.
It grows in summer and autumn, isolated or gregarious, in broadleaf woods, mainly of beech, often in the layers of rotting leaves.
Edible when young, when the gleba is white; it is necessary to remove the quills before consuming it.
Globulous, warty, echinulate spores, with evident and numerous spines, 4-5 µm. Clavate basidia, 2-4 sterigmata, without joint buckles, 10-18 × 7,5-8,8 µm.
Lycoperdon echinatum Look-Alikes
Is paler and covered in warts rather than spines.
Has a longer stem; its flesh has a faint but unpleasant odor.
Is white at first and then its surface breaks up into large cream scales rather than spines.
Closely resembles L. echinatum, but its spines are stouter, do not turn brown in age, and the surface of the fruit body underneath the spines is smooth, not pitted. Alexander H. Smith noted that in youth, they are "difficult if not impossible to distinguish from each other, but this will cause no inconvenience to those collecting for the table since both are edible." In some areas, the two species appear to intergrade, as specimens may be found whose spines turn brown but do not fall off.
It may also be difficult to distinguish from L. echinatum, but the former has a smooth outer surface when mature, and has spores attached to a pedicel (a narrow extension of the basidium on which the sterigmata and spores are formed) that is about 4–5 times as long as the spore.
Found only in New Zealand, also resembles L. echinatum in appearance, but differs in having smaller spores, capillitia that are hyaline (translucent) and septate (with partitions that divide the capillitia into compartments).
Lycoperdon echinatum Taxonomy & Etymology
The species was first described by Christian Hendrik Persoon in 1797. It was later reduced to a variety of Lycoperdon gemmatum (as L. gemmatum var. echinatum; L. gemmatum is now known as Lycoperdon perlatum) by Elias Magnus Fries, but American mycologist Charles Horton Peck, who extensively studied the North American distribution of the genus, raised it again to species level in 1879. He thought it worthy of status as a species distinct from L. gemmatum because of the different character of its warts, its much spinier appearance, and the smoother surface of the peridium underneath the spines.
Miles Joseph Berkeley and Christopher Edmund Broome wrote of the fungus in 1871, but believed their specimen, collected from Reading, Berkshire, by Hoyle, represented a new species, which they called Lycoperdon Hoylei. They wrote that their specimen agreed "exactly with an authentic specimen of Persoon's L. echinatum externally, who could, however, scarcely have overlooked the lilac spores." Despite the apparent difference in spore color, L. Hoylei is currently considered synonymous with L. echinatum. Utraria echinata, named by Lucien Quélet in 1873, is another synonym for L. echinatum.
In 1972, Vincent Demoulin described the species Lycoperdon americanum based on a specimen found in North Carolina. Although he believed it to be a unique species, several authors consider it synonymous with L. echinatum. Phylogenetic analysis of the sequence and secondary structure of the ribosomal RNA (rRNA) genes coding for the internal transcribed spacer units suggests that Lycoperdon echinatum forms a clade with the puffball genus Handkea, separate from the type species of Lycoperdon, Lycoperdon perlatum. In previous analyses that used only the rRNA sequences for phylogenetic comparison, L. echinatum formed a clade with L. mammiforme, L. foetidum, and Bovistella radicata (now known as Lycoperdon radicatum), but separate from L. pyriforme.
Peck referred to the species as the "echinate puff-ball". The specific epithet echinatum is derived from the Greek word echinos (εχινος) meaning "hedgehog" or "sea-urchin".
Lycoperdon echinatum Antimicrobial Activity
Using a standard laboratory method to determine antimicrobial susceptibility, methanol-based extracts of Lycoperdon umbrinum fruit bodies were shown in a 2005 study to have "significant" antibacterial activity against various human pathogenic bacteria, including Bacillus subtilis, Escherichia coli, Salmonella typhimurium, Staphylococcus aureus, Streptococcus pyogenes, and Mycobacterium smegmatis. An earlier study (2000) had identified weak antibacterial activity against Enterococcus faecium and Staphylococcus aureus. Although the specific compounds responsible for the antimicrobial activity have not been identified, chemical analysis confirms the presence of terpenoids, a class of widely occurring organic chemicals that are being investigated for their potential use as antimicrobial drugs.
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