Scleroderma Aurantium Earthstar Fungus: Identify & Learn More

earthball mushroom

Pronunciation:

Introduction

The plant known as Scleroderma aurantium is commonly referred to as the Pigskin Poison Puffball or Common Earthball in the USA. It is a type of fungus rather than a plant, and thus it does not have a wide variety of common names. It is typically referred to by its scientific name.

Classification

  • Kingdom: Fungi
  • Phylum: Basidiomycota
  • Class: Agaricomycetes
  • Order: Boletales
  • Family: Sclerodermataceae
  • Genus: Scleroderma
  • Species: Scleroderma aurantium

Description

Scleroderma aurantium is a type of fungus, specifically a gasteroid fungus, which is known for its hard, thick peridium (outer layer) that resembles pigskin, hence the common name Pigskin Poison Puffball. It does not have significant ornamental or commercial value and is not considered invasive or problematic. It is, however, important in forest ecosystems for its role in decomposing organic matter.

Size

The fruiting bodies of Scleroderma aurantium typically range from 2 to 10 centimeters in diameter.

Leaves

As a fungus, Scleroderma aurantium does not have leaves.

Flower

Fungi do not produce flowers. Instead, they produce spores for reproduction, which are contained within the fruiting body.

Fruit

The term “fruit” in fungi refers to the spore-bearing structure, which in the case of Scleroderma aurantium, is the puffball itself.

Stem

Scleroderma aurantium does not have a stem. Its fruiting body is typically sessile, meaning it sits directly on the substrate without a stalk.

Cultivation and Care

Scleroderma aurantium is not typically cultivated as it is a wild fungus and has little to no value in horticulture or agriculture.

Planting

This fungus is not planted; it naturally occurs in the environment.

Soil Preference

Scleroderma aurantium is often found in well-drained soils, in both deciduous and coniferous forests.

Watering

Being a wild fungus, Scleroderma aurantium does not have specific watering needs provided by humans.

Sun Requirements

It typically grows in shaded areas under the forest canopy.

Pruning

Pruning does not apply to fungi.

Propagation

Propagation of Scleroderma aurantium is through the natural release of spores from the mature fruiting body.

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Health & Safety

Scleroderma aurantium is considered poisonous and should not be consumed by humans, dogs, or cats. It contains toxic compounds that can cause gastrointestinal distress and other symptoms if ingested. There are no thorns or spines, and it is not known to cause contact dermatitis.

Pests and Problems

As a fungus, Scleroderma aurantium does not typically suffer from pests in the way plants do. It is more affected by environmental factors such as competition for resources with other fungi and changes in habitat. However, like other fungi, it can be subject to fungal diseases and parasitism by other fungi or bacteria. Specific pests and problems are not well-documented due to its status as a wild organism with limited interaction with human cultivation.

Caresheet Data

General Information

Plant Name:scleroderma aurantium
Etymology:Scleroderma: From Greek “skleros” meaning “hard” and “derma” meaning “skin”, referring to the hard rind of the fruiting body. Aurantium: From Latin “aurantium” meaning “orange-colored”, referring to the color of the fungus.
Common Name:Dyeball
Genus:Scleroderma
Species:aurantium
Family:Sclerodermataceae

Plant Characteristics

Height:1-2 in / 0.08-0.17 ft / 2.5-5 cm / 0.025-0.05 m
Width and Spread:5-15 cm / 0.16-0.49 ft / 50-150 mm / 0.05-0.15 m
Plant Type:Fungus
Habit/Form:Fungus
Leaf Type:Mycorrhizal, not applicable (Scleroderma aurantium is a type of fungus, not a plant, and thus does not have leaves).
Leaf Arrangement:Mycorrhizal, not applicable
Leaf Shape:Subglobose to irregular
Leaf Margin:Entire
Leaf Color:Brownish or dark brown
Fragrance:No fragrance reported.
Stem Description:The stem of Scleroderma aurantium, commonly known as earthball, is absent or rudimentary, as it is a type of fungus rather than a typical plant.
Stem Is Aromatic:No
Texture:Rough, warty outer surface
Leaf Feel:Scleroderma aurantium does not have leaves; it is a type of fungus known as earthball.
Leaf Length:2-5 cm
Leaf Description:Scleroderma aurantium does not have leaves; it is a type of fungus known as earthball, producing spore-bearing structures instead of leaves.
Hairs Present:No

Cultivation

Light Requirements:Partial shade to full shade
Soil Preference:Well-drained soil with a pH range of 5.5 to 7.5.
Water Requirements:Moist but well-drained soil; water regularly but do not overwater.
Fertilizer Requirements:Not applicable (Scleroderma aurantium is a fungus, not a plant; it does not require fertilizer).
Pruning Requirements:Not applicable (Scleroderma aurantium is a type of fungus, not a plant).
Seed Germination Time:1-3 months
Display/Harvest Time:Late summer to fall
Fruit/Seed Production:Scleroderma aurantium does not produce fruit or seeds; it is a type of fungus that produces spores.
Growth Rate:Slow
Growth Habit:Mycorrhizal, terrestrial fungus
Root System Type:Mycorrhizal
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Flower and Fruit Information

Fruit Type:False truffle
Fruit Description:Not applicable (Scleroderma aurantium is a type of fungus, not a plant, and does not produce fruit).
Flower Color:Brown
Flower Shape:Star-shaped
Flower Inflorescence:Scleroderma aurantium does not produce flowers; it is a type of fungus that forms fruiting bodies resembling puffballs.
Flowering Season:Summer to fall
Bloom Duration:Not applicable (Scleroderma aurantium is a type of fungus, not a flowering plant).

Tolerance and Hardiness

Drought Tolerance:High
Frost Tolerance:-20°C
Heat Tolerance:Not documented
Wind Tolerance:Not available
Shade Tolerance:High
Salt Tolerance:Not salt-tolerant
Soil Compaction Tolerance:Low
USDA Plant Hardiness Zones:7-10
Photoperiod Sensitivity:Not available

Wildlife and Landscape

Pollinator Attraction:No, Scleroderma aurantium does not attract pollinators as it is a type of fungus and does not require pollination.
Wildlife Value:Low; not a significant food source for wildlife; may be toxic.
Problematic Insects:No data available
Allelopathic Properties:Yes
Habitat Enhancement:Forms symbiotic relationships with trees, improves soil fertility through mycorrhizal networks.
Erosion Control Potential:Low; not typically used for erosion control.
Landscape Location:Woodlands, grassy areas, along roadsides, and in gardens with well-drained soil.
Landscape Theme:Woodland garden; shade garden; naturalized areas
Design Feature:Scleroderma aurantium, commonly known as the pigskin poison puffball, is not typically used as a design feature due to its toxic nature and unappealing appearance. It is a fungus that is considered inedible and potentially harmful.
Ethnobotanical Significance:Used in traditional medicine for treating wounds and as a hemostatic agent.
Naturalization Ability:Low naturalization ability
Companion Planting Suitability:Not applicable (Scleroderma aurantium is a type of fungus, not a plant).

Health and Safety

Edibility:No
Edible Parts:None; Scleroderma aurantium is inedible and potentially toxic.
Toxicity:Yes
Poison Parts of Plant:Whole fruiting body (sporocarp)
Toxic to Humans:Yes
Toxic to Cats:Yes
Toxic to Dogs:Yes
Causes Contact Dermatitis:No.
Air Purification Qualities:Not established
Medicinal Properties:Not medically recognized; traditionally used for immune system enhancement, anti-inflammatory properties.
Thorniness or Spikiness:No

Sources and Additional Reading

  1. Scleroderma aurantium – North Carolina Extension Gardener Plant Toolbox (plants.ces.ncsu.edu)
  2. Scleroderma aurantium · iNaturalist (www.inaturalist.org)
  3. Scleroderma aurantium – GBIF (www.gbif.org)
  4. Scleroderma | SpringerLink (link.springer.com)
  5. Taxonomy browser (Scleroderma aurantium) – National Center for … (www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  6. What does scleroderma aurantium mean? – Definitions.net (www.definitions.net)
  7. Stonewall Jackson | Biography, Battles, Death, & Facts (www.britannica.com)
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