Reproduction/ Life Cycle

So what’s with the “puffball” name anyway?                      Photo by Tom Volk

The physical appearance of the reproductive structure of this fungus looks like a puffy marshmallow may be one reason for its name, but there is another possibility.  The reproduction of Lycoperdon pyriforme, as with all fungi, depends upon the ability to disperse its spores.  This is done by spurting out perhaps billions of spores all in one event that resembles a cloudy “puff”.  Some sort of outside force is usually required for this to occur such as wind, rain, or some animal stepping on it or squishing it.

General basidiomycota lifecycle:                                                          

The lifecycle of L. pyriforme is fairly similar to other basidiomycota.  There are haploid (n) and diploid (2n) forms as well as a long dikaryotic phase (n+n).  Compatable haploid hyphae may combine or “mate” by stuffing both nuclei into a single hyphal cell (plasmogomy).  At this point the organism is known as a dikaryote since it has two (“di”) distinct nuclei (“karyote”) and develops the reproductive structure.  When certain cells undergo karyogamy, the two haploid nuclei join and form diploid cells called basidia located on the underside of the mushroom in the gills.  Meiosis of these cells produce haploid basidiospores which are exposed to the air such that a wind can carry them off to a new location.


L. pyriforme lifecycle:

The L. pyriforme lifecycle has a few differences.  The dikaryotic reproductive mushroom forms an almost spherical enclosure that consists of capsules of the dikaryotic basidia.  This is vastly different from Ascomycota that produce external spores (see Orange Peel Fungus as an example).  After maturation, these basidia may then meiose and give rise to the haploid basidiospres (still inside the capsules).  When ready, the outer enclosure ruptures giving off a cloud of spores.  The diagram below serves as a better illustration of a L. pyriforme specific lifecycle.


life cycle adopted from Cambell and Reece Biology, eight edition   photo above-left by Ian Hayhurst on, photo above-right by glsol on

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