Stump Puffball

What’s Coming Out of That Mushroom?

When this video clip was posted to social media by one of our TerraCorps members, it was received with mixed reactions. Responses ranged from “so cool!” to “that’s definitely a trap and releasing poison.” Most people just wanted to know “what is coming out of them?” and “is that a type of fungi?” and “DOES IT SMELL?” 

These alien-looking pods are actually a type of mushroom called Lycoperdon pyriforme or “stump puffball.” The name is not misleading –- stump puffballs grow on dead or decaying tree stumps in large clusters of dozens or sometimes hundreds.  

Stump puffballs start out as regular-looking mushrooms but in the fall and early winter they transform into hollow, spore-filled air sacs. The green “dust” you see in the video are millions of tiny spores exploding out of a small hole in the mushroom top. 

Aside from being poked and prodded by curious humans, these spores are released by natural forces like rain or animals.   

The word pyriforme is Greek for “pear-shaped.” However, the origin of Lycoperdon is debated among researchers. Some believe Lyco comes from lýkos meaning wolf and pérdomai meaning “break wind,” aka the “wolf-fart” mushroom. Others believe it was incorrectly translated from its original Leuco-perdon meaning white puff. 

Regardless of the Greek roots, the “wolf-fart,” nickname is a misnomer. These spores do not actually smell. However, you certainly do not want to inhale them as it could cause respiratory problems.  

Have you ever encountered Lycoperdon pyriforme? We’d love to hear about your stump puffball finds in the comments below! 

— Kaleigh Keohane

15 thoughts on “What’s Coming Out of That Mushroom?

  1. Shirley

    My son and I found a cluster of them here in Cork, Ireland. This estate was a woodland area. Love Wolf fart name too, that’ll stick! Thanks for info!

    Reply
  2. Chase McNeilly

    That’s weird I found three of these in our backyard with no rain or rotting wood around at all and they looked kind of deflated compared to these ones in the video and they puffed brown spores instead is it a different fungus or is it just dead??

    Reply
    1. Julie Randazzo

      40 years ago, in northern Indiana, I played in the woods behind my house. Year after year, these mushrooms grew at the edge of the woods. I don’t remember dead stumps, only the mushrooms that would display a green powder puff when I touched them. I would show my friends that would come over. What a great memory. Thanks for sharing what these are!

      Reply
  3. Annette Parsonage

    I’ve found some in my garden, I live in Tasmania, never seen them before, they appeared after two days of heavy rain.

    Reply
  4. Phyllis Sanchez

    I have them in my yard in Florida. They seem to grow when moisture is present. Lots of spores come out for sure.

    Reply
  5. Amy

    A bunch of these grew in my mulched planting bed… weird. I told the kids about the wolfs fart and they thought it was hilarious. I’m definitely sticking with that name because it’s way more fun. I sure hope the green powdery stuff isn’t dangerous as the kids got it into their head to stomp all over them.

    Reply
  6. Anastasia Braucht

    We just found 3 separate of these little cuties in out backyard in Toms RiverNJ. I’m sure we’ll have plenty more now since I “popped” them before knowing what one was. Haha Thabj you for this great and informative page!

    Reply
  7. Tom Johnson

    I disturbed a puffball this morning. It blew out lots of spores. My worry is that I might have inhaled some. I certainly felt off my food at lunchtimes and not quite right. I am feeling OK now, but do I need medical advice?

    Reply

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