Sunday 25 July 2010

#39 Scleroderma cepa

While puffballs are not as aesthetically appealing as the fungi showing off brilliant colours or fancy form, they are fascinating in their own right.

Scleroderma cepa belongs to the tough skinned puffball genus.

Scleroderma cepa amongst sparse grass

My observations of Scleroderma cepa match well with reliable sources. Fruit bodies grow to about 60mm in diameter, yellow-brown in colour, smooth at first, reticulated and cracked with age, folding back in lobes to expose the purple-brown spore mass.

Unlike the soft-skinned puffballs, Scleroderma cepa is never soft to touch. The gleba (immature spore mass) remains compacted for some time before the spores mature. When the top of the fruit body cracks and peels back, the mature spores are dispersed by the elements.

A wide range of habitats appears suitable for this puffball - I have found it in grassy areas (lawns and parks), semi-arid woodland, and it is reportedly common in mixed forest.

Scleroderma cepa is often partly buried by soil,
and the top is often somewhat flattened.

An immature specimen shows the internal white skin turning brown, and a solid speckled purplish-black spore mass.

The internal skin has turned yellow with cracking

The skin on the top has peeled back in lobes
to expose the mature purplish spore mass

As the fruit body ages, lobes flatten and spores disperse

Finally, after the spores have completely dispersed, the tough skin remains, and is sometimes confused with the remains of an Earthstar fungus (Geastrum).

My sightings of Scleroderma cepa

[This will be updated with more sightings]

Hunter Region Botanic Gardens, Heatherbrae, NSW - in sparse grass Jul 2010.

Baradine, NSW - in sparse grass in residential lawn Jun 2010, Jul 2010, Apr 2012, Jun 2012.

Binnaway, NSW - in sparse grass in park Jul 2010.

Maitland, Hunter Valley, NSW - in sparse grass amongst scattered native trees.


Keith said...

I hope you don't think this request rude, but is there any chance you could add a bit more info in regards to any uses for the fungi that you show, eg medicinal or culinary?
With respect and regards, Le Loup.

Gaye said...

Hello Le Loup,

a very valid request, thank you. As I don't have any education in mycology or environmental sciences, it will prove difficult to come by reliable information, but I do have a good place to make a start, which I will do.

This should prove an interesting exercise.


Anonymous said...

Hello, i've just caught the fungi bug myself, mycology is my new hobby. LIke you however i do not have professional education within it, and it's just a hobby, nice page you have here though, i think i've seen this fungus here in WA, we don't have as many as you do over there, but i'm pretty sure i've seen this one, thanks again for an excellent blog.


Gaye said...

Hello Trent,

and once caught, there is no shaking off the fungi bug :)

When I was in WA a few years ago, I photographed a similar species also. I dug around the base of the puffball, and found it was buried at least 5cm. This was different to the one featured on this blog entry. The WA one also had brown rather than purple-brown spore mass. I am presuming it was a different species, but of course, at this time I am not sure.

I have been searching for the photo to show you, but my filing system needs work and I can't locate it. When I do, I will post a link to it up here.

Enjoy your fungi hunting and studying. It is a fascinating and rewarding hobby.


Gaye said...

Trent, I found the image of the similar puffball I found in WA. You can see how it differs by extending underground. I have dug around this one:


Anonymous said...

Yes! That is most certainly it, i go for walks everyday, and i see this fungus everywhere, it seems to spore prolifically, what's it's scientific name?

I WIsh i knew the biochemistry to all of the fungi in Australia, it seems very hard to find good information! You need access to scholar journals, with biochemistry information it would be awesome, who knows what kind of medicinal compounds these fungi contain.

- Trent -

Gaye said...

Hello Trent,

yes, it is hard to find reliable information, primarily because Mycology is not a wide-spread practiced field of science in Australia. That is why amateurs like us can be of so much benefit to the science.

I don't know the identity of the Scleroderma I found in WA, sorry. In the second paragraph of my blog entry, there is a link to a key for Scleroderma, BUT it is American. It may be of some use, but only to those who have use of a microscope, and knowledge of spore identification.

Joining a fungal study group is a great way for fungi enthusiasts to learn, so if you are near Perth, you might do well to check out their fungi group. I live quite a distance from Sydney, and as yet have not been able to devote the time to becoming involved.

Photographing your finds will be important, as will be recording details of your finds, and taking spore prints.

I visit WA annually, and am always on the lookout for fungi.


Anonymous said...

Thanks Gaye, i might just do that if i find the time. LIke i said fungi are fascinating, it is my new hobby and i do believe that over the next several years i will extend my interest in mycology massively, i'll join a group to be with like-minded people but also mostly for identification purposes you know. I Never take fungi home with me though i'd like to, it's illegal though, and bad for the enviroment. THe only fungi i keep are the ones that grow up on my property. With that in mind though, i photograph everything. I Just think it's ironic that this strange very ugly fungus i see all over the place here in the bush in WA you also posted on your blog here and have a photo of. I WIsh i knew the scientific name for the WA species and the one that you have a picture of too.

Thanks Heaps - I'll stay up to date with your blog


Gaye said...

Hello Trent,

I understand your reluctance to take fungi home with you to obtain a spore print, but it is not illegal unless from a national park.

Also, having an understanding of how fungi work, it doesn't need to be bad for the environment to take a specimen either.

This is how I view my collecting of specimens for identification purposes:

Firstly, if there are plenty of specimens fruiting in an area, one less is not going to harm the big picture considering the copious spores they drop for distribution by the elements.

Secondly, if there is only one or a few specimens in an area, I take half a specimen and leave the rest to decompose naturally.

For identification purposes, spore prints are necessary. Amateur mycologists like you and me are few and far between. It's not like every second person who sees a fungus is going to take a portion of it home.

I believe that Mycology will play an important role in the future with regards to medicine. I believe study and documentation is important. I believe that amateur fungi enthusiasts who go about recording their finds and observations in a detailed manner are of benefit to the science, and therefore, the well-being of humanity.

If a person collecting fungi for study purposes treats the environment with care and respect, I believe that they will cause no harm to the environment.

In the course of fungi observations in the field, enthusiastic and sensible amateurs will discover new species (not 'might', but 'will'), record previously unseen fungi behaviour, and provide valuable information to others who have the expertise to use such information.'s raining again, and you know what that means....more fungi !!

Enjoy your new hobby.


Anonymous said...

Thanks Gaye, i like what you say and i totally agree with everything. I Must admit, as much as i adore mycology, my study of it is quite narrow in regards to how fungi reproduce, and how to reproduce them in a controlled environment(something i'd love to learn). With that in mind, i will do just that. Thanks for your messages and conversing. I've got a lot to learn, most of my fungi hunting is in national parks unfortunately, but it shouldn't hurt just taking some small samples.


Lou said...

Hi all.
Thanks for this wonderful blog spot and photos Gaye.
I live in Sydney's inner west, and walk dogs for a living. During the last couple of years I have photographed over 50 species of fungi that I've stumbled across. I have to admit despite owning several field guides, that I've only been able to name the more distinctive ones. Last year I joined the Sydney Fungal Studies Group, and attended one of their forays. It is a wonderful organisation, and the mycologists are keen to share their knowledge and experience.
I highly recommend anyone interested in mycology to visit their site

Gaye said...

Hi Lou,

I agree, the Sydney Fungal Studies Group would be a wonderful group to be involved with. I find Sydney too difficult for me, but I've met some of the fungi enthusiasts from the group, and I've contributed several photos to their website. What a great way to learn, going on the forays, and the prime fungi season will be upon us in a couple of months.

Enjoy :)

I'll be very soon adding regularly to my fungi blog with the many fungi I found throughout 2010.