Pigskin Poison Puffball
(Scleroderma citrinum)
Pigskin Fleeing

Keep that pigskin poison mushroom away from me!

Pigskin Poison Puffball sculpture by "Wildman"

Pigskin Poison Puffball

sculpture, acrylic paints

Description

This thick-skinned, beige mushroom, rounded but flattened, 3/4 to 1-5/8 inches across, is not a true puffball, but an earthball. The generic name, Scleroderma, is also that of a skin disease. It refers to the mushroom's warty surface.

When you cut this earthball open, it begins white, but soon turns purplish-black, and it's always hard. When mature, the powdery spores become blackish-brown.

Pigskin Poison Puffballs

Pigskin Poison Puffballs

Note the warty surface.

Look-Alikes

True puffballs are soft and white inside. Other earthball species (Scleroderma species), which are also poisonous, lack the warty skin.

Smooth Earthball

Smooth Earthball (S. cepa)

This upended mushroom exposes the white mycelium that makes up the body of the fungus.

Smooth Earthball, Cut Open

Smooth Earthball (S. cepa), cut open

This very young specimen hasn't turned purple-black inside yet.

Habitat

This mushroom is common, sometimes growing in groups, in the woods, on sandy soil, and in wood chips, throughout North America.

Season

You can find pigskin poison puffballs from early summer to late fall.

Edibility

This poisonous mushroom and its relatives cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, sweating, and chills. Looking at the bright side, it won't kill you!

Nevertheless, people have used it to adulterate truffles! These underground mushrooms (burrowing or digging mammals eat truffles and spread the spores in their droppings) are so flavorful and hard to get at, they're the world's most expensive fungi. And victims don't always suspect that their illness stems from eating such prized mushrooms!

Illness