Z. Pilzk. 25(2): 50. 1959.
Photo: Young sporocarp.
Common Name: dead man's foot, dyeball
Synonym: Pisolithus tinctorius
Sporocarp 5-20 cm tall, 4-10 cm wide, rounded to lobed, becoming club-shaped, with a sterile, yellowish-brown, fibrous, deeply rooted base; peridium thin, smooth, often shiny, yellowish-brown, dark-brown to purple brown; gleba, of tiny, pebble-sized, white to yellowish-brown, sometimes reddish-brown peridioles (spore sacs) developing in a black gelatinous matrix; at maturity the peridium crumbling apically revealing a mass of cinnamon-brown spores; odor pleasant, of mushrooms.
Spores cinnamon brown, 7-12 µm, globose, spiny.
Solitary to scattered near conifers and hardwoods, in our area typically Monterey pine and live oak; typically in impoverished soils, or disturbed ground, e.g. roadsides, paths, and dry grassy areas; fruiting in the early fall.
Said to be edible when young, but with local experience lacking, not recommended.
This puffball is inevitably described as one of the least attractive of all fungi. However, it can be interesting to section immature sporocarps to view the distinctive sac-like peridioles. At maturity, the peridioles breakdown to form the masses of spores which make this fungus unpleasant to collect. While ignored by most amateur collectors, it's worth noting that it finds use in Forestry because of its ability to form mycorrhizae with a variety of conifer seedlings, and by artists, who use it as a source for dyes.
Calonge, F.D. (1998). Flora Mycologica Iberica. Vol. 3. Gasteromycetes, I. Lycoperdales, Nidulariales, Phallales, Sclerodermatales, Tulostomatales. J. Cramer: Berlin, Germany. 271 p.
Coker, W.C. & Couch, J.N. (1974). The Gasteromycetes of the Eastern United States and Canada. Dover Publications, Inc: New York, NY. 201 p.
Pegler, D.N., Læssøe, T. & Spooner, B.M. (1995). British Puffballs, Earthstars, and Stinkhorns. Royal Botanic Gardens: Kew, England. 255 p.