National Geographic : 1920 May
COMMON MUSHROOMS OF THE UNITED STATES 415 Photograph by A. G. and B. Leeper THE GIANT PUFF-BALL (Calvatia gigantea) The best-known of all puff-balls. A single specimen will suffice for the largest family. Diameter often fourteen inches and over. As children, we have all squeezed the puff-ball to make it "puff," little realizing that in doing this we were liberating billions of spores, which-if everything went well with them would produce in turn billions of puff-balls. But there is "many a slip" in the life of a puff ball spore. Were this not so, the whole country at the proper season, would be paved with puff-balls. A recent investigator, Professor Buller, computing the number of spores in a single good-sized specimen of the giant puff-ball, found that it contained about seven trillions (7,000,000,000,000); and yet this species is by no means as common as those who know its delicious flavor would like it to be. One is inclined to ask-as we do about the fate of pins what becomes of them all? . . . The plant grows in grassy places, in August and Sep tember, sometimes in "fairy-rings." It is not very common, we regret to say. To escape acceptance of the theory of the spontaneous generation of life, it has been suggested that extraordinarily minute organisms (bacteria, for example), or their spores, propelled alive through space, might be capable of carrying life to planets. When it is con sidered that the vitality of some spores remains unimpaired after prolonged exposure to liquid air and even liquid hydrogen, the suggestion seems plausible. See also pages 392 and 402.