Friday, November 04, 2016


I can't resist stepping on ripe puffballs. Doing my part to help with spore dispersal, I say, to excuse my childishness. But this week in the Tyee Spit puffball patch, the puffballs wouldn't puff; they squished and oozed instead.

Cave full of powder, too damp to fly.

Call them oozeballs this year.

The puffball has a unique spore dispersal strategy.  Within the spongy interior, the spores are produced by the trillions.  Eventually, the puffball dries and hardens to the point where it is a papery sac filled with trillions of spores.  When an animal comes along and steps on or bites into the puffball the spores are ejected forcibly.  For small puffballs this can even be accomplished by the impact of falling raindrops. (Field notes)

Anything that grows in the Pacific Northwest has to be able to cope with rain, and puffballs can use it even to get their flying spores airborne. Here's a gif of raindrops causing puffballs to puff.

Once spores are caught by the wind they can be carried very long distances. Spores of a wheat rust have been reported to have been dispersed 1,243 miles (2000 km) by the wind. (Fun Facts about Fungi)

But there can be too much of a good thing. This year's spores aren't going to go far from home.


  1. Everything in my garden is just melting in all the rain. Last year I had marigolds into November. Not so this year. - Margy

  2. Oozeballs -- what a great name! And, I confess, I love to step on dry puff balls, and bubbles in hot asphalt, crunchy oak galls ........


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