Calvatia sculpta

Calvatia sculpta, commonly known as the sculpted puffball, the sculptured puffball, the pyramid puffball, and the Sierran puffball, is a species of puffball fungus in the family Agaricaceae. Attaining dimensions of up to 8 to 15 cm (3.1 to 5.9 in) tall by 8 to 10 cm (3.1 to 3.9 in) wide, the pear- or egg-shaped puffball is readily recognizable because of the large pyramidal or polygonal warts covering its surface. It is edible when young, before the spores inside the fruit body disintegrate into a brownish powder. The spores are roughly spherical, and have wart-like projections on their surfaces.

Originally described from the Sierra Nevada, C. sculpta is found in mountainous areas in western North America, and was found in a Brazilian dune in 2008. It may be easily confused with Calbovista subsculpta, a similar puffball that—in addition to differences observable only with a microscope—is larger, and has slightly raised warts with a felt-like texture. Other similar species include Calvatia arctica and immature specimens of Amanita magniverrucata.

Taxonomy and naming

The species was first described in 1885 by American mycologist Harvey Willson Harkness, under the name Lycoperdon sculptum. Harkness, who called it "a curious and strikingly beautiful species", found fruit bodies growing at elevations between 1,800 and 2,400 meters (5,900 and 7,900 ft) in the Sierra Nevada mountains. Although he noted that "in appearance it differs so much from any species known to us, as to be almost deemed worthy of generic rank", he thought that placement in the puffball genus Lycoperdon was the most appropriate classification, despite its unusual cortex.[2] Harkness's type collections were destroyed in the fires following the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.[3] In 1904, Curtis Gates Lloyd considered the species better placed in Calvatia, because of the resemblance of its deeply colored capillitial threads (coarse thick-walled cells found in the gleba) to those of Calvatia caelata;[nb 1] he called the species Calvatia sculptum.[7] The mushroom is known by several common names, including the "sculpted puffball", the "sculptured puffball", the "pyramid puffball",[8] and the "Sierran puffball".[9]

In 1992, German mycologist Hanns Kreisel, in his survey of the genus Calvatia, defined the section Sculpta to contain C. sculpta and C. subcretacea.[10] Two years later he merged the section Cretacea into Sculpta[11] when it was shown that C. subcretacea was synonymous with the arctic-alpine species C. arctica.[12]


Calvatia sculpta 47702
The gleba of young fruit bodies are firm and yellowish-white.

The white pear- or egg-shaped fruit body of C. sculpta may be 8 to 15 cm (3.1 to 5.9 in) tall by 8 to 10 cm (3.1 to 3.9 in) wide. The outer layer of tissue, known as the exoperidium, is covered on the outer surface with distinctive long, pointed, pyramid-shaped warts, either erect or bent over and sometimes connected at the tip with other warts.[13] The warts bear parallel horizontal lines towards the base. Mycologist David Arora opined that C. sculpta resembled "a cross between a geodesic dome and a giant glob of meringue."[9] In age, the peridium sloughs off and exposes a brownish spore mass. The interior of the puffball, the gleba, is firm and yellowish-white when young, but gradually becomes powdery and deep olive-brown as it matures.[13]

The spores are roughly spherical, thick-walled, 3–6 µm in diameter (although some specimens collected in the US range from 7.2 to 9.5 µm),[14] and are covered with minute spines or warts.[15] The use of scanning electron microscopy has revealed that these ornamentations on the spores are typically 0.95 µm long. Spore ultrastructure is distinctive among Calvatia species, and has been used to help verify taxonomic groupings and confirm the status of species within the genus.[16] The capillitia (coarse, thick-walled hyphae in the gleba) are septate, with branches that are narrowed towards the tips; they are 3–8 µm in diameter.[15] When grown in pure culture in the laboratory, C. sculpta is, under certain conditions, able to grow structures called mycelial strands. These are linear aggregates of hyphae whereby older "leading" hyphae become enclosed by coiled layers of newer "tendril" hyphae. Mycelial strands provide a conduit for transporting water and nutrients across non-nutrient material, allowing the fungus to reach new sources of food.[17] They are also implicated in the formation of fruit bodies and sclerotia. The mycelia of C. sculpta can be induced to form mycelial strands when there is a permeable physical barrier between it and the agar substrate.[18] The wide hyphae in the center of the mycelial strands contain protein-dense structures on their cell walls that are shaped like a torus. Their function is unknown.[19]


Calvatia sculpta is edible, and said to be "choice" by some authors.[9][13] The taste is described as "mild" and the flesh has no distinguishable odor.[13] Arora recommends eating the puffball only when it is firm and white inside, as older specimens may have a distasteful iodine-like flavor.[20] The puffball may be preserved by freezing fresh or partially cooked slices, but their flavor and texture will deteriorate unless cooked immediately after thawing. Recommended cooking techniques for puffball slices include sautéing and coating in batter before frying.[8] C. sculpta was used as a traditional food of the Plains and Sierra Miwok Indians of North America, who called the fungus potokele or patapsi.[21] Puffballs were prepared by drying them in the sun, grinding them with a mortar, and boiling them before eating with acorn soup.[22][23]

Similar species

Lookalike species include Calbovista subsculpta (left) and Amanita magniverrucata (right).

Calbovista subsculpta 45731
Amanita magniverrucata 82433

The giant western puffball, Calvatia booniana, is much larger than C. sculpta—up to 60 cm (24 in) in diameter and 30 cm (12 in) tall—and has a smoother surface.[24] Mature specimens of Calvatia arctica (synonymous with Calvatia subcretacea, Gastropila subcretacea, and Handkea subcretacea)[1][12] can resemble immature specimens of C. sculpta. It is distinguished from C. sculpta by its tough, thicker peridial wall,[15] and its scales are tipped with gray-brown.[25] Calbovista subsculpta is similar in appearance, but has more flattened and less prominent pyramidal warts. Microscopically, its capillitia are thin-walled and frequently and irregularly branched, in contrast to the thick-walled infrequently branched capillitia of C. sculpta.[13] The "possibly toxic" Amanita magniverrucata, in its embryonic stage, has a superficial resemblance as it also has pyramidal cap warts. However, it grows at different elevations and different seasons than C. sculpta. Further, slicing the fruit body of A. magniverrucata in half will reveal internal structures of cap, gills and stem not present in puffballs.[26]

Habitat and distribution

The sculptured puffball grows solitarily or in small groups in forest duff. It is typically associated with coniferous forests at high elevations, greater than about 750 m (2,500 ft),[27] on western mountains like the Sierra Nevada and the Cascade Range.[15][20] The United States distribution includes the states of California, Oregon, Washington, and Idaho.[28] An uncommon species,[9] it fruits throughout spring, summer, and fall during wet weather.[13]

Most commonly known from western North America,[13] the species was reported growing on sandy soil in Natal Dunes State Park in the northeastern Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Norte in 2008. The fruit bodies were associated with the roots of the native tree species Eugenia brasiliensis. Several hypotheses have been proposed to account for this disjunct distribution: the species may have been present before the Americas separated; it may have been introduced to Brazil by human activity, and subsequently adapted to the environment there; or the North and South American populations may represent a cryptic species complex—appearing morphologically similar but genetically distinct. The Brazilian population has not been compared genetically with North American specimens.[14]


  1. ^ Depending on the authority consulted, Calvatia caelata is currently known as either Lycoperdon utriforme,[4] Calvatia utriformis,[5] or Handkea utriformis.[6]


  1. ^ a b "Gastropila subcretacea (Zeller) P. Ponce de León 1976". MycoBank. International Mycological Association. Retrieved 2011-06-28.
  2. ^ Harkness HW. (1885). "Fungi of the Pacific Coast". Bulletin of the California Academy of Sciences. 1 (3): 159–77.
  3. ^ Setchell WA. (1908). "Notes on Lycoperdon sculptum Harkness". Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club. 35 (6): 291–6. doi:10.2307/2479221. JSTOR 2479221.
  4. ^ "Calvatia caelata (Bull.) Morgan". Index Fungorum. CAB International. Retrieved 2011-06-28.
  5. ^ "Calvatia caelata (Bull.) Morgan 1890". MycoBank. International Mycological Association. Retrieved 2011-09-29.
  6. ^ Kreisel H. (1989). "Studies in the Calvatia complex (Basidiomycetes)". Nova Hedwigia. 48 (3–4): 281–96.
  7. ^ Lloyd CG. (1904). Mycological Writings of C.G. Lloyd. 1. Cincinnati, Ohio. p. 203.
  8. ^ a b Bessette A, Fischer DH (1992). Edible Wild Mushrooms of North America: A Field-to-Kitchen Guide. Austin, Texas: University of Texas Press. pp. 128–31. ISBN 978-0-292-72080-0.
  9. ^ a b c d Arora D. (1986). Mushrooms Demystified: A Comprehensive Guide to the Fleshy Fungi. Berkeley, California: Ten Speed Press. p. 684. ISBN 978-0-89815-169-5.
  10. ^ Kreisel H. (1992). "An emendation and preliminary survey of the genus Calvatia (Gasteromycetidae)". Persoonia. 14 (4): 431–9.
  11. ^ Kreisel H. (1994). "Studies in the Calvatia complex (Basidiomycetes) 2". Feddes Repertorium. 105 (5–6): 369–76. doi:10.1002/fedr.19941050516.
  12. ^ a b Lange M. (1994). "Calvatia subcretacea, a synonym of C. arctica". Mycologia Helvetica. 6 (2): 87–90.
  13. ^ a b c d e f g Miller HR, Miller OK (2006). North American Mushrooms: A Field Guide to Edible and Inedible Fungi. Guilford, Connecticut: Falcon Guide. p. 460. ISBN 978-0-7627-3109-1.
  14. ^ a b Baseia IG, Calonge FD (2008). "Calvatia sculpta, a striking puffball occurring on Brazilian sand dunes". Mycotaxon. 106: 269–72.
  15. ^ a b c d McKnight VB, McKnight KH (1987). A Field Guide to Mushrooms, North America. Boston, Massachusetts: Houghton Mifflin. p. 353. ISBN 978-0-395-91090-0.
  16. ^ Portman R, Moseman R, Levetin E (1997). "Ultrastructure of basidiospores in North American members of the genus Calvatia". Mycotaxon. 62: 435–43.
  17. ^ Hudson HJ. (1992). Fungal Biology. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. p. 29. ISBN 978-0-521-42773-9.
  18. ^ Bellotti RA, Couse NL (1980). "Induction of mycelial strands in Calvatia sculpta". Transactions of the British Mycological Society. 74 (1): 19–25. doi:10.1016/s0007-1536(80)80003-9.
  19. ^ Rose JM, Couse NL (1982). "Torus-shaped structures in hyphae of Calvatia sculpta". Transactions of the British Mycological Society. 79 (1): 172–4. doi:10.1016/s0007-1536(82)80211-8.
  20. ^ a b Arora D. (1991). All That the Rain Promises and More: A Hip Pocket Guide to Western Mushrooms. Berkeley, California: Ten Speed Press. p. 220. ISBN 978-0-89815-388-0.
  21. ^ Anderson MK, Lake FK (2013). "California Indian ethnomycology and associated forest management" (PDF). Journal of Ethnobiology. 33 (1): 33–85 (see p.&nbsp, 41). CiteSeerX doi:10.2993/0278-0771-33.1.33. open access
  22. ^ Barrett SA, Gifford EW (1933). "Miwok material culture: Indian life of the Yosemite region". Bulletin of the Public Museum of the City of Milwaukee. 2 (4): 117–376.
  23. ^ Burk WR. (1983). "Puffball usages among North American Indians" (PDF). Journal of Ethnobiology. 3 (1): 55–62.
  24. ^ Kuo M. (October 2008). "Calvatia booniana". MushroomExpert.Com. Retrieved 2011-06-28.
  25. ^ Sundberg W, Bessette A (1987). Mushrooms: A Quick Reference Guide to Mushrooms of North America. Macmillan Field Guides. New York, New York: Collier Books. p. 20. ISBN 978-0-02-063690-8.
  26. ^ Wood M, Stevens F. "Calvatia sculpta". California Fungi. MykoWeb. Retrieved 2011-06-28.
  27. ^ Lukas D, Storer TI, Usinger RL (2004). Sierra Nevada Natural History. Berkeley, California: University of California Press. p. 40. ISBN 978-0-520-24096-4.
  28. ^ Zeller SM, Smith AH (1964). "The genus Calvatia in North America". Lloydia. 27 (3): 148–80.

Calbovista is a fungal genus containing the single species Calbovista subsculpta, commonly known as the sculptured puffball, sculptured giant puffball, and warted giant puffball. It is a common puffball of the Rocky Mountains and Pacific Coast ranges of western North America. The puffball is more or less round with a diameter of up to 15 cm (6 in), white becoming brownish in age, and covered with shallow pyramid-shaped plates or scales. It fruits singly or in groups along roads and in open woods at high elevations, from summer to autumn.

Although the puffball was originally described as new to science by Elizabeth Eaton Morse in 1935, it was not published validly until 60 years later. The species is named for its resemblance to Calvatia sculpta, from which it can be usually distinguished in the field by its less prominent pyramidal warts, and microscopically by the antler-like branches of its capillitium (thread-like material among the spores). Calbovista subsculpta is a good edible species while its interior flesh (the gleba) is still firm and white. As the puffball matures, its insides become dark brown and powdery from mature spores.


Calvatia is a genus of puffball mushrooms that includes the spectacular giant puffball C. gigantea. It was formerly classified within the now-obsolete order Lycoperdales, which, following a restructuring of fungal taxonomy brought about by molecular phylogeny, has been split; the puffballs, Calvatia spp. are now placed in the family Agaricaceae of the order Agaricales.

Most species in the genus Calvatia are edible when young, though some are best avoided, such as Calvatia fumosa, which has a very pungent odor.

The name Calvatia derives from the Latin calvus meaning "bald" and calvaria, meaning "dome of the skull".

List of Latin and Greek words commonly used in systematic names

This list of Latin and Greek words commonly used in systematic names is intended to help those unfamiliar with classical languages to understand and remember the scientific names of organisms. The binomial nomenclature used for animals and plants is largely derived from Latin and Greek words, as are some of the names used for higher taxa, such as orders and above. At the time when biologist Carl Linnaeus (1707–1778) published the books that are now accepted as the starting point of binomial nomenclature, Latin was used in Western Europe as the common language of science, and scientific names were in Latin or Greek: Linnaeus continued this practice.

Although Latin is now largely unused except by classical scholars, or for certain purposes in botany, medicine and the Roman Catholic Church, it can still be found in scientific names. It is helpful to be able to understand the source of scientific names. Although the Latin names do not always correspond to the current English common names, they are often related, and if their meanings are understood, they are easier to recall. The binomial name often reflects limited knowledge or hearsay about a species at the time it was named. For instance Pan troglodytes, the chimpanzee, and Troglodytes troglodytes, the wren, are not necessarily cave-dwellers.

Sometimes a genus name or specific descriptor is simply the Latin or Greek name for the animal (e.g. Canis is Latin for dog). These words may not be included in the table below if they only occur for one or two taxa. Instead, the words listed below are the common adjectives and other modifiers that repeatedly occur in the scientific names of many organisms (in more than one genus).

Adjectives vary according to gender, and in most cases only the lemma form (nominative singular masculine form) is listed here. 1st-and-2nd-declension adjectives end in -us (masculine), -a (feminine) and -um (neuter), whereas 3rd-declension adjectives ending in -is (masculine and feminine) change to -e (neuter). For example, verus is listed without the variants for Aloe vera or Galium verum.

Words that are very similar to their English forms have been omitted.

Some of the Greek transliterations given are Ancient Greek, and others are Modern Greek.

In the tables, L = Latin, G = Greek, and LG = similar in both languages.


Puffballs are fungi, so named because clouds of brown dust-like spores are emitted when the mature fruitbody bursts or is impacted. Puffballs are in the division Basidiomycota and encompass several genera, including Calvatia, Calbovista and Lycoperdon. True puffballs do not have a visible stalk or stem. The puffballs were previously treated as a taxonomic group called the Gasteromycetes or Gasteromycetidae, but they are now known to be a polyphyletic assemblage.

The distinguishing feature of all puffballs is that they do not have an open cap with spore-bearing gills. Instead, spores are produced internally, in a spheroidal fruitbody called a gasterothecium (gasteroid ('stomach-like') basidiocarp). As the spores mature, they form a mass called a gleba in the centre of the fruitbody that is often of a distinctive color and texture. The basidiocarp remains closed until after the spores have been released from the basidia. Eventually, it develops an aperture, or dries, becomes brittle, and splits, and the spores escape. The spores of puffballs are statismospores rather than ballistospores, meaning they are not forcibly extruded from the basidium. Puffballs and similar forms are thought to have evolved convergently (that is, in numerous independent events) from Hymenomycetes by gasteromycetation, through secotioid stages. Thus, 'Gasteromycetes' and 'Gasteromycetidae' are now considered to be descriptive, morphological terms (more properly gasteroid or gasteromycetes, to avoid taxonomic implications) but not valid cladistic terms.

Stalked puffballs do have a stalk that supports the gleba. None of the stalked puffballs are edible as they are tough and woody mushrooms. The Hymenogastrales and Enteridium lycoperdon, a slime mold, are the false puffballs. A gleba which is powdery on maturity is a feature of true puffballs, stalked puffballs and earthstars. False puffballs are hard like rock or brittle. All false puffballs are inedible, as they are tough and bitter to taste. The genus Scleroderma, which has a young purple gleba, should also be avoided.Puffballs were traditionally used in Tibet for making ink by burning them, grinding the ash, then putting them in water and adding glue liquid and "a nye shing ma decoction", which, when pressed for a long time, made a black dark substance that was used as ink.

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