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Are Puffball Mushrooms Poisonous?

Picture of common puffball mushroom


Ever came across a white stone-like mushroom growing out of the ground? You might have found yourself a puffball mushroom. 

Ever came across a brown spherical mushroom which emits a cloud of green spores when you poke it? You guessed it, you found a puffball mushroom.

Puffballs are one of the most widespread edible mushrooms in the world. They lack an open cap with spore-bearing gills, one of their most distinguishing feature.

These mushrooms have a few look-alikes, but they are typically identified as an easy-to-identify and forage fungus.

Are Puffball Mushrooms Poisonous?

The following puffball mushrooms are not poisonous:

  • Common puffballs (Lycoperdon perlatum).
  • Giant puffballs (Calvatia gigantea).  
  • Purple-spored puffball (Calvatia cyathiformis).
  • Grey puffball (Bovista plumbea).

None of these puffballs are poisonous, they are in fact all edible while young. 

The flesh of puffballs is white and firm when young, but becomes yellowish or brown and softer as it matures.

When the puffball is mature, the centre will be filled with spores. If you cut open a puffball and it is still all white inside, it is safe to eat. If the puffball is anything other than all white inside, it is best not to eat it.

So, to answer the question, are puffball mushrooms poisonous?

No, puffball mushrooms are not poisonous, however, there are a few puffball look-alikes which you need to be aware of.

How To Identify Edible Puffballs?

To identify puffballs, pay close attention to the following features:

-Puffballs are typically spherical or upside-down pear-shaped.

-The flesh is white, firm and sponge-like when young, but becomes yellowish or brown and softer as it matures (this is when you shouldn't eat them).

I mainly focus on ensuring the mushrooms I have found do not have gills then cut the puffball in half and analyze the inside of the mushroom.

This is a dead giveaway, as long as the inside of the puffball is white and sponge-like, they are safe to eat.

Study the following pictures to get an idea of what common puffballs and giant puffballs look like.

common puffball
Bottom of common puffballl

These are my pictures of a common puffball I found while out foraging.

You can see from the bottom of the mushroom that the inside is sponge-like on the inside. 

Inside of a puffball

In this second picture when I tear it in half you can see it is spongy yet solid all the way through.

Common puffball in grass
Common puffball teared open
Giant Puffball in grass
Giant Puffball Uk

This is a picture of a young Giant puffball I found in the UK. You can see it is a lot larger than a common puffball and it has a slightly different texture on the outside (smoother).

Poisonous Puffball Look-Alikes.

There are a few puffball look-alikes that are poisonous, so it is important to be able to identify them.

The Earthball mushroom (Scleroderma citrinum) is a puffball look-alike that is poisonous. It can be distinguished from puffballs by its brown or reddish-brown colour, and the fact that it has small scales on the surface. Study the images below and compare them to the puffball pictures, they are similar but the texture and colour is slightly different. 

the earthball mushroom (scleroderma-citrinum)
earthball mushroom

Another puffball look-alike is The Earthstar (Geastrum spp.). These mushrooms have a spherical fruit body with thin rays that spread out from the centre. 

The inside of an Earthstar is filled with brown spores. These mushrooms are not poisonous but are not considered to be good for eating.

earth star mushroom

The Destroying Angel (Amanita bisporigera) is a puffball look-alike that is deadly poisonous. It has a white spherical fruit body with gills on the inside. It is usually the juvenile mushrooms which will look similar to puffballs, here is a picture of one.

Juvenile Destroying Angel

If you cut open a puffball like mushroom and you find it has gills, do not eat it.

The universal rule for identifying puffballs is: if it has gills, don’t eat it. If the inside is not white and sponge-like inside, don't eat it. Normally puffball mushrooms grow in groups in fields so you can tear open one to identify, then find the rest.

What If I Eat A Poisonous Puffball?

If you eat a poisonous puffball, you will likely experience gastrointestinal upset, including vomiting and diarrhea.

If you have eaten a poisonous puffball and are experiencing these symptoms, seek medical attention immediately.

What Do Puffballs Taste Like?

Puffballs have a very mild flavour, and are often cooked, breaded and fried (in a similar way to parasol mushrooms), or in soups and stews. 

They can also be dried and ground into a powder, which can be used as a flour substitute.

Are Puffball Mushrooms Poisonous to Dogs?

While puffball mushrooms are not poisonous to dogs, the puffball look-alikes described earlier will be.

If you are sure your dog has definitely eaten a puffball mushroom there is nothing to panic about, however, if you are unsure it is probably best to monitor them carefully or take them straight to the vet.

Try to make sure your dog is trained not to eat mushrooms from your lawn and keep an eye on them in areas with lots of mushroom species if they are prone to a feast.

Wrap up.

Puffballs are a great mushroom to get out and forage, if you follow good foraging techniques and err on the side of caution you shouldn't have any concearns with them.

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