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Puff-ball

In mycology (a branch of biology), Puff-ball is the common name for a fungal genus Lycoperdon, and so called because of the cloud of brown dust-like spores which are emitted when the mature fruiting body bursts. They are common in meadows and woods and on heaths or lawns. When young. their fruiting bodies resemble white balls, sometimes with a short stalk, and are fleshy in texture. If cut across in this state, they show a compact rind enclosing a loose tissue, in the interspaces of which the spores are developed; as the fungus matures it changes to yellowish-brown and brown. When ripe, the rind tears at the apex and the spores escape through the aperture when any pressure is applied to the ball. When white and fleshy, the fungus is edible. The fibrous mass which remains after the spores have escaped has been used for tinder or as a styptic for wounds.

The giant puff-ball, Lycoperdon giganteum, reaches a foot (30 cm) or more in diameter, and is difficult to mistake for any other fungus. It has been estimated that a large specimen of this fungus when mature will produce around 7 10 spores. If collected before spores have formed, while the flesh is still white, it may be cooked as slices fried in butter, with a strong earthy, mushroom flavour. It does not store well in a freezer - the entire freezer rapidly acquires a strong mushroom odour.

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from a 1911 encyclopedia, with additions and modifications