Many wild mushrooms are poisonous

Sunday, September 23, 2012

One of Southeast Missouri's largest mushrooms is the purple-spored puffball. It is a native wild mushroom that may appear in your lawn in late summer through autumn. It is commonly found this time of year in pastures and sometimes in woodlots.

The purple-spored puffball is bulky in appearance. It is white when young and growing. It turns brown like a large baked dinner roll as it matures. Eventually the top will deteriorate and the purple spores on its inside will be revealed. Raindrops falling into the puffball will send spores flying and the wind will carry the purple spores away.

The purple-spored puffball is edible if harvested in its early stages of growth. A knowledgeable mycologist will know when this mushroom is safest to pick, prepare for the table and eat. I do not recommend harvesting, cooking or eating any wild mushroom. Many kinds of wild mushrooms growing here in Missouri are poisonous to humans.

A fully grown purple-spore puffball mushroom will usually grow to about the size of a softball. During winter you may find its remaining evidence to be like a dirty torn piece of leather loosely attached to the ground.

Through the Woods is a weekly nature photo column by Aaron Horrell. Find this column at to order a reprint of the photo. Find more work by him at the Painted Wren Gallery.

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