Gasterocarp (15) 40-95 mm tall x (15) 51-80 mm broad; obpyriform, globose to depressed globose at the apex and turbinate at the base; rhizomorph incrusted with soil and sand particles, 33-35 (45) mm broad x 20-25 mm long from the base of the fruitbody, remaining attached and sub-rooted to the soil throughout maturation, sometimes with a mat of white
mycelium at the base in addition to the rhizomorph, often with two rhizomorphs growing from the base; ostiole becoming open via cracks along the margins of scales, eventually becoming a gaping hole the entire width of the gasterocarp, wearing away with maturity as the peridium layers slough off. Exoperidium yellowish white (4A2) to cream buff (5A3) when young, becoming brownish yellow (5C7), darkening brown with age (5F5), color becoming patchy and partially remaining light in color through maturation; ornamentation composed of robust polygonal warts with a octagonal or hexagonal basal shape, irregular and angular, with blunted tips; (7) 12-22 mm broad x (6) 12-15 mm wide, up to 1 mm thick; scales made of fibrils radiating upward to a raised and pointed or depressed apex, becoming further depressed or flattened with maturity, cracking apart as the gasterocarp swells with growth, staining bright yellow (4A5) in between cracks; scales mostly concentrated at the apex of the fruitbody, erupting irregularly and falling away top downward; scales coriaceous when moist, becoming brittle when extremely dry; exoperidium remaining adherent to the endoperidium throughout maturation, all pyramidal warts eventually sloughing off, exposing the gleba, completely falling apart until only a small remnant-like cup of subgleba remains. Endoperidium white to cream buff (5A3) when young, becoming bright yellow to orange yellow between exoperidium scales (4A6-4B7), dark chocolate brown when mature (5F8-7F8); 1-2 mm thick at the sides and up to 6-8 mm thick at the top; with a floccose to felt-like ornamentation when young, becoming tough and coriaceous with age; remaining adherent to the exoperidium throughout maturation, falling away with the exoperidium scales and exposing the gleba. Gleba white when young (7A1), immediately oxidizing to orange white (5A2) or cream yellow (4A3) when cut open, becoming light yellowish brown (5D6) along the outer edge, tan green (4D8), to olive brown (5F4), to dark brown (5F8); becoming powdery to completely pulverized with maturity. Subgleba broad at the apex tapering to a plicate subhypogeous rooted base, chambered with large locules. Diaphragm absent.
Basidiospores globose to subglobose; 4-5.6 X 4-5.6 µm [xmr = 4.5-4.7 X 4.5-4.6 µm, xmm = 4.6 ± 0.1 X 4.6 ± 0.1 µm, Q = 0.8–1.2, Qmr = 1.0, Qmm = 1.0 ± 0.0, n = 20, s = 4]; amber golden brown in water mounts, turning bright yellow in KOH mounts; verruculose with rounded bumps, finely roughened, with small erecting bumps under compound light microscope, covered in flattened stellate-shaped bumps with roughened verruculose granules under SEM; oil drop present; spores thick-walled; pedicel (0.8-) 1.6-4.8 µm long, unevenly broken to tapered, broken ends with long ripped strips seen with SEM; free-floating sterigma not present in wet mounts; spores of equal size under light microscopy. Eucapillitium Calbovista-type; 10-12 µm broad, with walls up to 3 µm thick; dark brown in KOH mounts; elastic to subelastic; composed of individual threads having a thick main stem, branching abundant with numerous ramified branching appendages creating an antler-like appearance; threads incrusted, with a coarse or roughened appearance, knob-like projections absent; ends tapering to a short rounded or blunt terminus, some tips rounded to a pointed terminus, some thinner ends attenuate, tips sometimes curved, hooked, or in-rolled. Pores present, but scarce and small, punctate, sinuous slits present due to cracking of the eucapillitial wall from desiccation; slits as described by Kreisel (1997) absent. Septa present and scarce, disarticulating at the septa, pseudosepta abundant. Paracapillitium absent. Exoperidium textura globulosa; composed of large and swollen sphaerocysts, hyaline, some cells with an irregular-shaped or club-shaped, intermixed shaped cells. Endoperidium textura intricata; composed of a palisade of irregular-shaped, long hyphal threads that easily stain blue in a lacto-phenol cotton blue heating reaction; . Subgleba robust and chambered with large locules; reduced and compact in small fruitbodies, composed with pseudoseptate cells. Diaphragm absent.
Habitat: Fruiting in spring after the snow melts in subalpine to alpine areas of the Sierra Nevada. Growing in areas where deep snowdrifts accumulate, on rocky soil, moist soils, or in
xeric soil types. Found terrestrial under conifers, in conifer duff, and in full sun with dispersed grass. Growing solitarily or gregariously. Reported as caespitose in some areas. Collected under ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa), incense cedar (Calocedrus decurrens), Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii), and black oak (Quercus velutina). Calbovista subsculpta is well known among these mountain ranges: Cascades, northern Idaho mountains, Olympics, Rocky Mountains, and in the Sierra Nevada (Seidl 1995). Often seen covered with ants, which have been observed drinking morning dewdrops on fruitbodies along the margin of open peridium, then departing covered with spores, aiding in spore dispersal. Among the Geographic Subdivisions of California, this species is found in the Cascade Range, in the Great Central Valley, in the Sierra Nevada, in the Eastern Sierra Nevada, and in the mountains of Southwestern California.