T.E.R:R.A.I.N - Taranaki Educational Resource: Research, Analysis and Information Network


Calvatia craniiformis (Brain puffball)

Kingdom: Fungi
Division: Basidiomycota
Class: Agaricomycetes
Order: Lycoperdales
Genus: Calvatia
Species: C. craniiformis
Binomial name: Calvatia craniiformis
Common names: Brain puffball, Skull puffball,

Calvatia craniiformis is a species of mushroom. This puffball is distinctive in both its shape and size. It is usually "formed like a skull" as its name implies, and sometimes the resemblance is really striking. It derives its name from the same Latin root as cranium, (looking very much like an animal's brain). Being of the calvatia genus, this fungus produces large quantities of spores internally, and releases them air movement.

Its fruiting body: 8-20 cm broad; 6-20 cm tall and is skull-shaped, white to tan, smooth becoming wrinkled, with the skin cracking and flaking with age. The skin will eventually slough away, exposing a powdery yellow-brown spore mass. After the spores blow away the cup-shaped sterile base remains, often over winter. The flesh is white and firm when young, becoming yellow-brown and powdery in maturity. The mushroom's thick pointed base connects to the fibrous fungus that penetrates the ground.

This interesting story appeared in a British paper 3 Nov 2002 A grisly homicide turned out to be FUNGI-cide after a "human brain" found in a forest was identified as. a mushroom. A murder probe was launched when a couple stumbled on the macabre "remains" and a bloodied T-shirt. Detectives feared there had been a pagan ritual killing and called in forensic experts. Then forest keeper Peter Adams arrived - and instantly recognised the spongy mass as a large mushroom. The T-shirt stains were red dye. Cops now think the "murder" scene in Epping Forest, East London, was simply a bit of fungi business by a practical joker. Det Sgt Mark Mills-Bishop said: "It was a macabre set-up and the couple were shaken to find what they believed was a human brain. A lot of police resources were put into this." The couple, London-based Americans house-hunting in the area, were taken to a police station as witnesses before the true nature of their frightening find was revealed. They were too embarrassed to talk yesterday.

Calvatia craniiformis fruit body about the size of a large grapefruit looking like a brain.


Same as above but photo taken 7 days before


Old fruiting body.

Fruiting body cut open.