Genus LycoperdonGENUS LYCOPERDON
The Lycoperdons, or true puffballs, produce within the ball vast numbers of dust-like spores mingled with elastic threads. When the ball is compressed, the rind or peridium bursts at the summit to form a single mouth, and the elastic threads cause the spores to fly out in puffs like smoke.
The spore-bearing part of the plant is globe-shaped, obovoid, or top-shaped and at the base of the gleba no spores are produced; the cells here are coarse and empty. The rind or peridium of the ball consists of two parts, the outer bark or outer peridium being adorned with spines or scales or warts or granules. Sometimes the exterior coat may be peeled off, sometimes it dries and falls away in fragments.
The inner coat is thin and papery, and opens on the top with one opening. At first the ball is fleshy within, the microscope showing the flesh to consist of a great number of simple or branched threads and enlarged cells. The enlarged cells bear usually four spicules, on the tips of which are the spores. When the plant is fully developed, the fleshy part becomes so filled with moisture that water may be squeezed out as from a sponge. As the flesh becomes moist, the colour changes from white, through yellow, to olive. After the change in colour, the wet mass becomes dry and powdery, a mass of globose spores and elastic threads or capillitium.
The Lycoperdons are of small size, usually found in fields and woods. A section made by cutting a ball from top to base will show that the threads form a more or less well developed sterile base or subgleba underneath the fertile gleba, or mass of threads containing spores. Sometimes the sterile threads from the base rise upward in the centre of the fertile mass and form a little column, the columella. Usually the threads which bear the spores are in two sets; one set extending inward from the walls of the rind, and another set extending outward from the central columella.