E-Flora BC: Electronic Atlas of the Flora of British Columbia

Bovista plumbea Pers: Pers.
lead-colored puffball

Species account author: Ian Gibson.
Extracted from Matchmaker: Mushrooms of the Pacific Northwest.

Introduction to the Macrofungi

© Bryan Kelly-McArthur  Email the photographer   (Photo ID #85790)

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Distribution of Bovista plumbea
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Species Information

Features include 1) a spherical or slightly flattened fruitbody, with a thin, fragile, white outer layer that splits up into egg-shell-like pieces when mature and scales off, 2) smooth papery inner layer that is blue-gray to purplish brown or lead-colored when old and usually with a metallic luster, rupturing to form a circular opening at the top, 3) spore mass that is white and firm at first, then yellow-olive and mushy, finally olive-brown, chocolate brown or reddish brown, and powdery, 4) attachment by a small mycelial tuft, 5) growth in grassy places in spring to fall, and 6) oval, finely warted spores with a tail-like extension. Bovista plumbea widely distributed and common, (Arora). It is known from many parts of the United States, and reported from ID, AZ, IL, MA, MI, MT, NC, ND, NY, OH, SC, WI, and WY, and also from Europe, United Kingdom, and Russia, (Bates). The University of British Columbia has collections from BC, AZ, and WY. Oregon State University has collections from WA, OR, CA, and OH. The University of Washington also has collections from AK.
Outer Surface:
2-4cm across, nearly spherical, outer layer thin, fragile; pure white; barely areolate [cracked like dried mud]; soon separating from the inner layer, (Lincoff), 1-4(8)cm across, spherical or slightly flattened; white; "smooth, felty, or with small flatte
Inner layer:
at first yellowish, gray as soon as it opens, then blackish; smooth; developing an opening at the top, (Lincoff), smooth, papery; blue-gray to purplish brown or lead-colored when old and usually with metallic luster; rupturing at top to form a large circu
Spore Mass:
white, yellowish, then powdery when mature, (Lincoff), "white and firm at first, then yellow-olive and mushy, finally powdery and olive-brown to deep chocolate-brown", (Arora), white, then olive-brown to reddish brown, (Breitenbach)
attached to soil by small mycelial tuft; no sterile base, (Lincoff), usually with a small patch of fibers holding soil at base; sterile base absent, (Arora)
slightly acrid [peppery], (Lincoff)
spores 5-7 x 4-6 microns, oval, finely warty, with a pedicel [tail-like extension], (Lincoff), spores 5-7 x 4-5 microns, "oval or broadly elliptic to nearly round, minutely spiny to nearly smooth, with long pointed pedicel" 8-14 microns long, (Arora), spores 4-6.5 x 3.5-5.5 microns, subglobose-oval, smooth, brown, with droplet, (illustrated with long pedicels); basidia 4-spored, 10-20 x 7-10 microns, without basal clamp connection; capillitium up to 25 microns across, brown, thick-walled, "strongly dichotomously branched, without pores and primary septa", (Breitenbach)
Spore Deposit:
olive-reddish-brown (Breitenbach)

Habitat / Range

single, scattered, or gregarious in grassy places, (Arora), usually gregarious, meadows and pastures, (Breitenbach), spring, summer, fall (Lincoff)

Taxonomic and Nomenclatural Links

Additional Range and Status Information Links


edible when immature, (Arora)

Additional Photo Sources

Related Databases

Species References

Breitenbach(2)*, Arora(1)*, Lincoff(1)*, Ammirati(1), Schalkwijk-Barendsen(1)*, Courtecuisse(1)*, Bates(1), Bacon(1)*, AroraPocket*, Buczacki(1)*

References for the fungi

General References