What You Should Know
Bovista pila is a species of puffball fungus in the family of Agaricaceae. It is egg-shaped to spherical puffball with white outer skin flakes off in age to reveal a shiny, bronze-colored inner skin that encloses a spore sac. The puffballs are initially attached to the ground by a small cord that readily breaks off, leaving the mature puffball to be blown about.
It is found in corrals, stables, roadsides, pastures and open woods. The puffballs fruit singly, scattered, or in groups on the ground. It is also known to grow in lawns and parks. Widely distributed in North America (including Hawaii).
Edible when young and the gleba still white.
Other names: Tumbling Puffball.
Bovista pila Mushroom Identification
4.0-8.0 cm broad, globose to slightly compressed, lacking a sterile base, attached to the substrate via a white mycelial cord; peridium thin, <1.0 mm thick; exoperidium white, glabrous to matted-tomentose, becoming dingy-tan, occasionally squamulose to areolate, eventually dark-brown to mahogany-brown; exoperidium persistent, often present at maturity, gradually peeling away, absent only in weathered material; endoperidum metallic-gray, sometimes patchy bronze-brown to purple-brown were overlain with remnants of exoperidium; gleba white, turning olivaceous, then dark-brown to slightly purplish at maturity, texture firm; spores released via apical cracks and tears; sterile base and subgleba absent; odor and taste mild.
3.5-4.5 µm, globose, thick-walled, smooth to roughened, often with a central oil droplet, some with a clear, short pedicel, usually <1.0 µm, rarely up to 3.0 µ spores dark-brown; capillitium bovistioid, composed of individual filaments, branching more or less dichotomously from a trunk-like base; pits absent.
Odor and Taste.
These puffballs have a mild taste and odor. Some sources declare a sweet smell and flavor.
Summer to Autumn.
Solitary, scattered, to gregarious along trails, grassy areas, or in sandy soils under conifers like Monterey cypress (Cupressus macrocarpus).
Bovista pila Look-Alikes
Differentiated by smaller size, spore release from an apical pore, and attachment to the substrate via a tuft of mycelium as opposed to a mycelial cord (best seen in young material).
Distinguished from B. pila by its microscopic characteristics. The spores of B. nigrescens are oval rather than spherical, rougher than those of B. pila, and have a hyaline (translucent) pedicel about equal in length to the spore diameter (5 μm).
Bovista pila Uses
Puffballs were used by the Chippewa people of North America as a magic potion and medicinally as a hemostatic agent. In British Columbia, Canada, it is used by ranchers who are prohibited from using traditional medicines under the organic certification program. The puffball's spore mass was applied to the bleeding paw wound, then wrapped in breathable first-aid tape. It is also used for degermination bleeding and sternal abscess wounds.
Bovista pila Taxonomy and Etymology
The species was described as new to science in 1873 by Miles Joseph Berkeley and Moses Ashley Curtis, from specimens collected in Wisconsin. In their short description, they emphasize the short pedicels (tube-like extensions) on the spores and indicate that these pedicels — initially about as long as the spore is wide — soon break off.
The specific epithet pila is Latin for "ball".
Bovista pila Synonyms
Bovista tabacina Sacc., 1882
Mycenastrum oregonense Ellis & Everh., 1885
Bovista montana Morgan, 1892
Photo 1 - Author: ikhom (Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International)
Photo 2 - Author: matt_pulk (Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International)
Photo 3 - Author: bobbybo123 (Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International)
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