|Giant Puffball Fungi – Calvatia gigantea |
Kingdom: Fungi (mushrooms, lichen, etc.) / Phylum: Basidiomycota (club fungi: mushrooms, shelf fungi, puff balls) Family: Lycoperdaceae (Puff balls)
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Puffballs are spherical fruiting bodies that contain spores. They sit directly on the ground or on rotten wood. Ranging from golf ball size to as large as a watermelon, a really big specimen can contain trillions of spores.
The giant puffball cracks open to allow the wind to carry away its spores. Other puffballs have a small opening at the top. The wind may suck spores out of these openings like smoke drawn from a chimney. The spores can also be â€œpuffedâ€ out of the opening when the fruiting body is hit by raindrops Each spore is 3.5 to 5.5 microns in diameter. They are bone dry, making a mature giant puffball a sack of fine powder. The Lakota tribe of Native Americans used this essentially sterile, dry material in their medicine kit, packing wounds with puffball spores to slow bleeding and help the blood clot.
Although Fungi were once considered to be part of the plant kingdom, most experts now consider them to be a separate Kingdom or phylum. There are estimated to be over 100,000 different fungi, most of which form only tiny threads (Hypha) that can only be seen through a microscope. Of these, about 20,000 are considered to be high fungi or macro fungi, i.e. those that produce visible fruiting bodies. Only these are of any interest to the fungi enthusiast and covered in any detail, mostly of which belong to the subdivision Ascomycotina and Basidiomycotina.
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