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Common Earthball

Scleroderma citrinum


The way this puffball looks, it appears to be a mini spore-filled pot of ancient times. Being known also as the pigskin poison earthball, this commonly-found member of the genus Scleroderma is poisonous. It is often consumed mistakenly as the true edible puffballs, but is different due to 1) the method of spore release -- this species ruptures into a random outlet while puffballs have a minute hole at the top (apex) 2) the darker spore mass (gleba; going from white to gray, then darkening to purple and black, where it then becomes blackish or brownish) 3) a thick rind-like outer wall (peridium) 4) a yellow to golden color peridium, usually with scales, warts or both.


Found at about 7,000 feet from ground level, this was on the Old Baldy Trail that begins in Madera Canyon and ends atop Mt. Wrightson, a southern mountain range in Arizona. Usually fruits in northern North America, but they have been reported in vast numbers from the South as well.


Around 3 centimeters in diameter. After eating Scleroderma citrinum for whatever reason, diarrhea, a series of vomiting, nausea, and chills and/or cold sweats are likely to follow. Even without consuming the earthball, being near the spores has sometimes shown to cause people to cry, have a stuffy or runny nose, or even recieve pinkeye. Another strange thing is how another mushroom, Boletus parasiticus, the Parasitic Bolete, grows exclusively from this exact species of earthball! This raises questions: if the bolete is a parasite that releases spores like any other mushroom, what happens to them? Since Boletus parasiticus does not grow on its own, how does it manage to find its host? Through the mycelium? Does it hang out in the ground until S. citrinum spores land nearby, create mycelium, fruit, and attack when the time is right? Who knows. (More on this bolete: Aside from that, Scleroderma citrinum is also known as S. aurantium and S. vulgare.

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1 Comment

Ivan Rodriguez
Ivan Rodriguez 6 years ago

Thank you once again Clive! I read the description for it and agree. :)


Lat: 31.70, Long: -110.87

Spotted on Oct 23, 2011
Submitted on Oct 23, 2011

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Scleroderma sp. Scleroderma sp. Scleroderma citrinum Common Earthball, False Puffball  Scleroderma citrinum

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