Photographed by Bette Jackson
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Hi, I'm Dr. Jerry Jackson, out with the wild things. Following rain, our lawns are sometimes dotted with small white mushrooms that seem to have no stem and are round to pear-shaped, white, and covered with a rough surface, almost reminiscent of a golf ball. Within days, these marble-sized to lemon-sized mushrooms turn brown, and when the brown ones are stepped on, they seem to give off a puff of smoke or dust. It's this puff that gives these mushrooms their name: 'puffballs'. The puff isn't smoke or dust; it's the puffball's means of reproducing, thousands of tiny spores to be carried on the wind, each capable of growing into a new puffball. Puffballs are among the easiest of mushrooms to identify because of their lack of a stem and their rounded to pear-shaped form. They're edible when fresh, but become undesirable as tiny worms take advantage of their nutrients. Puffballs also do no harm to your lawn, they're simply taking advantage of nutrients in the soil. The tiny white puffball that is most common in Florida is known as Lycoperdon, which literally means 'wolf breaks wind', named by a scientist with a sense of humor for the odor produced when the spores are released.
'With the Wild Things' is produced at the Whitaker Center in the College of Arts and Sciences at Florida Gulf Coast University. For 'The Wild Things', I'm Dr. Jerry Jackson.