Wednesday, 27 April 2011

#52 Battarrea stevenii

My first sighting of this fungus was filled with excitement and anticipation - had I found my first Tall Stiltball?  If so, why was the cap so odd, and where were the spores?  I solved the puzzle with the help of a fellow fungi enthusiast, and was over the moon to find another specimen with dome-shaped spore mass intact.

Battarrea stevenii [pronunciation: Bat-ta-rhea steven-ee-eye] is commonly called Tall Stiltball, for obvious reasons; when intact, it resembles a ball on top of a stilt. It is a stalked puffball.

Unfortunately I have not yet observed a fresh specimen.  The fruit body emerges from a round or oval egg-like structure up to 50mm in diameter, partly covered in sand.  This 'egg' splits to form a non-gelatinous volva (a volva is typically a cup-like structure at the base of fungus fruit body stem).  The stem then emerges from the volva and grows, with the top of the 'egg' remaining on top of the stem, forming a cap or cover for the spore mass.  This cap will often be encrusted with sand.  In time, this cover will fall off exposing the spore mass.

The dry, scaly, woody stem can be up to 350mm high and 15mm diameter. The outer layer of the head of the fruiting body flakes off, and the inner layer falls away as one piece, to reveal a rusty-brown powdery dome of spores on top of disc-shaped apex of stem.

Battarrea stevenii is a dry country fungus, growing singly or in pairs on sandy soil with leaf litter.  It is a saprotrophic species (obtains nutrients from dead and decaying organic matter).

According to FungiMap, Battarrea stevenii is found in dry, semi-arid and  desert regions throughout Australia.  It is also found throughout North America, primarily in western regions; South America, Africa, Europe, and China.

Battarrea stevenii is inedible. 

Scaly stem, disc-shaped apex of stem, spores dispersed
Stem dry and woody, somewhat resembling Stringy-bark Eucalypt texture

Notice rusty coloured spores on the stem and ground

The three components: cap (cover of spore mass), spore mass, and stem

The underside of the cap that covered the spore mass

The top side of the cap (spores on my thumb)

Habitat of Battarrea stevenii - dry open woodland with leaf litter

My sightings of Battarrea stevenii

[This will be updated with new sightings]

Gibson Way through Macquarie Marshes, NW NSW - Jul 2010, Aug 2010

Nymagee, Western NSW - Sept 2012

A very tall specimen


Denis Wilson said...

Interesting creature. I don't need convincing to leave it alone.
A profusion of spores.

Gaye said...

Hi Denis,

It's so interesting finding completely different species in a new environment, but at the same time, I'm amazed by the number of species that grow in a wetter climate also pop their heads up in the semi-arid areas.

Fascinating stuff :)