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Giant Puffball - Calvatia gigantea

Giant Puffball - Calvatia gigantea

Main features

  • Fruitbody has no cap, stem or gills

  • Often between 10-80cm in diameter, but can be much larger

  • White coloured skin with smooth surface

  • Can be found as individual specimens, a small groups and sometimes in rings

  • Roughly a mis-shapen sphere

  • Smell is mild and mushroomy

  • Flesh is white and with the consistency of a marsh-mallow sweet in young specimens

  • In older specimens, flesh turns yellow, then grey-brown and powdery

  • Can be found in grassland

  • Sometime found detached from the mycelial cord

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Giant Puffball - Calvatia gigantea

Edible mushroom - novice

Other common names: None known


Scientific name meaning: Calvatia comes from the Latin Calvus, meaning bald or skull. This essentially means the cap is made of many parts. Giganteusis from the Greek Gigantos, meaning a Giant, in reference to the size of this mushroom's fruit body

Season - when will I find it? Summer to late Autumn

Habitat - where will I find it? Pastures, meadows, parkland, lawns, grassland, woodland

Description - what does it look like? 

Growth: The Giant Puffball is a saprobic fungus living of the dead and decaying plant and grass material in the sward. It can be found in rings, but its irregular fruiting means its fruits are often found as singles, or small numbers

Fruitbody: There is no discernible cap on the Giant Puffball. Instead it is solid and an irregular sphere shape. It is white in colour. There are no gills and no true stem. The fruit can reach 10-80cm across, but can be much larger than this

Flesh: White and with the consistency of a marshmallow sweet. In older specimens the flesh turns yellow, then grey-brown, before releasing spores

Smell: Mild and mushromy

Spore colour: Olive brown

Possible lookalikes Earthballs, which are toxic, but these are purple or black inside. When very young, the inside of Earthballs can have a creamy interior, but a distinct band near the skins surface can be noted.
Young Amanitas, which include deadly poisonous species, could also be mistaken for a puffball. However, an embryonic mushroom would be visible upon slicing the fruit top to bottom. 
Small Giant Puffballs could be easily confused with other puffballs, but all 18 UK species are edible

Use as a food The Giant Puffball must be pure white inside if it is to be consumed. Any specimens that have any sign of yellowing, or worse browning, should be discarded as they will cause severe gastric distress.

This mushroom is eaten cooked. The skin is tough so should be removed first. 
It has a slimy consistency and does not have the strongest taste, so it is best turned into a schnitzel, added to mushroom soups as a thickener, or included in dishes with lots of other mushrooms of different textures

Use in herbal medicine The spores have been used to coagulate blood in wounds. 

If you are suffering from any ailment or need medical advice, please see your General Practitioner

Hazards Do not consume if any part of the specimen is showing signs of going to spore – yellowing or browning of any part of the flesh.

This mushroom can grow on roadside grass verges where it can accumulate traffic-related toxins. It is advisable to avoid harvesting from the sides of busy roads

Importance to other species The Giant Puffball is eaten by slugs and snails

Always stay safe when foraging. You need to be 100% sure of your identification, 100% sure that your foraged item is edible, and 100% sure that you are not allergic to it (it is good practice to always try a small amount of any new food you are consuming). If in doubt, leave it out!

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