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Exploding Puffball Mushroom: Puffy Wonder Of Myco-World!

Going by many names, such as ‘Devil’s Snuffbox’ or ‘Wolf Farts,’ Exploding Puffball looks way too bizarre compared to other Mushrooms!

Generally, Exploding Puffball Mushroom owes its name to a bloated fruiting body containing tiny olive-green to brown or purplish-brown spores that burst open when squeezed or trampled on.

Although most Puffballs are edible, they may turn inedible when they grow past their prime.

Hence, for a safe harvest and correct identification, follow the article!

What Is An Exploding Puffball Mushroom?

The common Exploding Puffball Mushroom belongs to the fungal family Agaricaceae.

With a round, conical (eggish) or bell-shaped fruiting body, Exploding Puffballs lack any apparent cap, stem, or gills. 

Image illustrates Puffball mushrooms
Young Exploding Puffball Mushrooms have round and smooth fruiting bodies with dense flesh.

They are saprophytic Mushrooms that grow on organically rich substrates such as compost-based soil, leaf litter, or dead and decaying logs.

Do You Know?

‘Exploding Puffball’ is a standard name for numerous genera of Puffball fungi, including Apioperdon species, Bovista species, and Calvatia species.

Further, most Exploding Puffballs are present in open meadows, grassy clearings, deciduous forests, lawns, and golf courses.

Basically, the fruiting body of Exploding Puffball Mushrooms is white or creamy white with a dense mass of fungal hyphae during the first few weeks of its growth.

But, as these Mushrooms reach the end of their lifecycle (generally within 2-6 weeks), the flesh turns yellow, then brown with a hollow fruiting body filled only with spores.

How Do Exploding Puffball Mushrooms Spread Their Spores?

Explosive Puffball Mushrooms own their name from their spore-releasing process.

If you disturb the fruiting body of Exploding Puffballs, they release olive-green to brown or purplish-brown spores in the air from a single opening present at the top.

The spore cloud appears smoky if you squeeze, brush, or press its brownish-black fruiting body. Hence these Mushrooms are sometimes called ‘Smoke Bombs’ or ‘Earth Balls.’

Image illustrates mature fruiting body of Puffball mushroom
Mature Puffballs are filled with spores that disperse with the help of winds.

In warm, humid temperate climates, Exploding Puffball Mushrooms grow and mature from late summer to early fall. But, they have a short fruiting period in cooler climates.

Usually, wind, water, or animals help to disperse the spores of Exploding Puffballs by stomping or trampling. This creates pressure in its cushion-like fruiting body to release a cloud of dusty spores.

Then, the wind propels their spores over long distances. The Mushroom then starts a new colony after the spores land on a suitable organic substrate. 

What Makes Puffball Mushroom Explode?

Puffball Mushrooms explode when they are ready to release their spores.

All the flesh inside the fruiting body of the Mushroom turns yellow with age and then converts into spores. The outer membrane of the fruiting body also becomes thin.  

Also, the water vapor from the spores builds up pressure inside the fruiting body. When the pressure spikes beyond normal, the membrane of the fruiting body ruptures and releases the spores.

Each spore is 3.5-5.5 microns (0.00014 to 0.00019 inches) in diameter which is light and can haul from the release site to long distances.

The following video shows the spore dispersal process in Puffball Mushrooms.

Further, the fruiting body of a single Puffball Mushroom produces about 7 trillion spores.

Besides the self-release of spores, other factors, such as rain, touch, or wind, may also trigger their getaway.

How To Identify Edible Exploding Puffball Mushroom?

Most Exploding Puffball Mushrooms are edible when young with white to creamy white fruiting bodies.

But as they age, Puffballs may become poisonous and unpalatable for consumption.

Here are a few tricks to know before collecting edible Puffball Mushrooms.

  • Edible Puffballs are round, smooth, and firm, with a hollow white to creamy cavity when cut.
  • Additionally, edible Puffballs lack caps, stipe/ stem, or gills.
  • Further, most edible Puffballs are ready for harvest during late summer to early fall.
  • They grow on organic substrates (dead logs, tree trunks, and organic litter beddings).

After inspecting for an edible Puffball Mushroom, you can harvest it by cutting the fruiting body directly from the base using a sterilized knife.

Are Exploding Puffballs Harmful For Humans?

Although the exploding spores of Puffballs may be intriguing to look at, they may be harmful to our lungs.

Also, there has been a handful of cases in which these spores may disturb the respiratory health of your pets.

These spores, when inhaled, can cause pulmonary disturbance in the lungs, leading to hypoxemia.
Hence, if you have a long history of lung diseases, you may not want to come near these allergic puffy balls!

Exploding Puffball Mushroom Look-Alikes

Edible Puffballs have many look-alikes.

Some of the deadly look-alikes of the safe Puffball Mushrooms are as follows.

1. Deadly Amanita

Young Deadly Amanitas/ Death Caps look like Puffball Mushrooms as they don’t have gills and developed stem/ stipe.

However, you can easily recognize Amanitas from their caps after they mature.

Image illustrates look-alike mushrooms of Exploding Puffballs
Amanitas and Earthballs have similar fruiting bodies to that of Puffballs.

2. Earthballs

Earthballs are not poisonous as the Deadly Amanitas, but still, they pose a threat by making you sick.

The outer texture of their fruiting body is yellowish-brown and warty with a yellow spore print.

However, some species also sport blackish-purple spores when the fruiting bodies are cut.

From Editorial Team


Although a mature Exploding Puffball Mushroom may be inedible, you can harvest them when they are young.

A ‘vegan-meat’ substitute for real meats, these Mushrooms are jam-packed with nutrients and have culinary uses.