For the first time we have puffballs and they appeared on the opposite side of the yard. We've had a nearly full "fairy ring" in the past and a rectangle packed solid with saucer-shaped mushrooms. In Southern Indiana we once had a nice long study of a huge Scarlet Saucer mushroom. These puffballs are bigger than grapefruits!
They grow on the ground usually, some in wet, shady places, and others, as the giant species, in grassy fields in late summer. This giant puffball always excites interest when found. It is a smoothish, white, rounded mass, apparently resting on the grass as if thrown there; when lifted it is seen that it has a connection below at its center, through its mycelium threads, which form a network in the soil. It is often a foot in diameter, and specimens four feet through have been recorded. When its meat is solid and white to the very center, it makes very good food. The skin should be pared off, the meat sliced and sprin- kled with salt and pepper and fried in hot fat until browned. All the puffballs are edible, but uninformed persons might mistake the button stages of some of the poisonous mushrooms for little puffballs, and it is not well to encourage the use of small puffballs for the table.
A common species " the beaker puff- ball " is pear-shaped, with its small end made fast to the ground, which is per- meated with its vegetative threads.
The interior of a puffball, " the meat/* is made up of the threads and spores. As they ripen, the threads break up so that with the spores they make the " smoke/* as can be seen if the dust is examined through a microscope. The outer wall may become dry and brittle and break open to allow the spores to escape, or one or more openings may appear in it as spore doors. The spores of puffballs were used exten- sively in pioneer days to stop the bleed- ing of wounds and especially for nose- bleed.
In one genus of the puffball family, the outer coat splits off in points on maturing, like an orange peel cut lengthwise in six or seven sections but still remaining attached
to the base. There is an inner coat that remains as a protection to the spores, so that these little balls are set each in a little star-shaped saucer. These star points straighten out flat or even curl under in dry weather, but when damp they lift up and again envelop the ball to a greater or less extent.
All text quoted from Comstock's Handbook of Nature Study