Notes: I found several growing in bare area of lawn near a new gravel pathway. When I cut one open, it was completely white and firm and had a strong pungent scent. From the photo, a local friend tentatively ID’d it as a juvenile puffball, and I then went to Google and found this article—http://www.terrain.net.nz/... led me to believe it was a Skull-shaped puffball (Calvatia craniformis), especially since mine look very much like the ones in the bottom photo.
However, from the photo I posted on Flickr, a man in the U.K. and another man in Holland suggests that it’s an earthball, Scleroderma citrinum. Although mine was pure white inside, this page on your site (http://mushroomobserver.org/108113?q=uy6x), of a specimen observed near where I live, leads me to believe it may indeed be S. citrinum. Here is a link to the Flickr page, with all the discussions about it: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mimbrava/8260357839/.
I would very much appreciate your help in ascertaining which it is. Thanks.
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The base of the fungus, when carefully removed from soil, should have a clump of tenacious mycelial cords clumped near the base of the fungus. These rhizomorphs help attach the fungus to the mycelium which provides nutrients while the fungus is growing. The outer skin or peridium has very small warts up to .3mm high, or barely visible with the naked eye as being taller than the rest of the fungus. There should be a slight roughness to the skin if a finger is lightly rubbed over the surface.
The peridium (the outer skin) of the fungus is always several mm thick, which is also a reference to the scientific name. Scleroderma means “thick skin”.
Sclerodermas are puffballs, so your friend’s tentative ID as a juvenile puffball is correct. In general puffballs have very thin, paper-thin outer skins, while Scleroderma have thick skins.
Very young Sclerodermas have white interiors (glebas) which may or may not have interior veins visible, depending on the degree of maturity. As they age, the veins will become more defined, and the background color of the gleba will change from white to off-white, yellow-green, orange, ruddy, purple-red, gray, gray-black, purple, purple-black to nearly black in full maturity. Mature spores, necessary for positive identification, will not be available until the gleba has reached dark gray or darker coloration.
According to Dr. James Trappe, all sclerodermas should be considered poisonous until proven otherwise. In the early 1990’s a 110-pound pot-bellied pig died after eating Sclerodermas in Vancouver, Washington. A similar-sized human would also likely die after eating the same amount of Sclerodermas.
Sclerodermas are not poisonous unless eaten. The odor is not pleasant, and it is unlikely anyone would eat a mature Scleroderma. But younger specimens can seem to be pleasantly fungal. Please DO NOT EAT! Side effects include nausea, violent expulsion of vomit and diarrhea, which usually cleans the intestinal tract completely. This reaction is good for poisoned people in that it likely eliminates any toxins in the body. Avoiding the symptoms is even easier by not eating the fungus.
Mycowalt, for your prompt help, and Tuberale for your confirmation. This seems to be as helpful a site as BugGuide.
EDIT, later in the day: The discussion has continued on my Flickr page:
Created: 2012-12-14 08:17:01 PST (-0800)
Last modified: 2012-12-14 11:27:35 PST (-0800)
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