Welcome to Word of the Week! Stay tuned for a new word each week to amp up your nature vocabulary!
Word of the week is PERIDIUM [ puh-RID-ee-uhm ](noun): A protective layer on the fruit body of many fungi, which encloses a mass of spores.
Damp conditions in the summer can lead to many exciting late-summer fungi sightings in the shady forests of High Park. One of these sightings is the Pigskin Poison Puffball (or Common Earthball)!
The Pigskin Poison Puffball is a mycorrhizal fungus, meaning it has a symbiotic relationship with the trees in the forest. The fungus connects with the roots of the trees and exchanges water and minerals in return for carbohydrates. Both the tree and the fungus benefit from this relationship.
This fungus has quite the name, so let’s break it down! The “Pigskin” refers to the fungus’ peridium, which is yellow-brown and has a scaly texture reminiscent of a football (American style, often called a “pigskin”). As for “Poison”, there have been some conflicting reports about whether or not this fungus is truly poisonous. However, it is generally regarded as inedible, largely due to the toxins it contains.
So what about the word “Puffball?” Well, once the fungus reaches maturity, the peridium of the fruit body will rupture leaving a large and odd shaped opening. From this opening, the spores inside (which have a dusty consistency) can be dispersed by the rain, the wind, or by a group of kids with the High Park Nature Centre, who are excited to see the small and dark puffs of spores shoot out of the fungi.
Keep an eye out for Poison Pigskin Puffball on your next visit to High Park’s forests!