The DNAinfo archives brought to you by WNYC.
Read the press release here.

Giant Puffball Mushrooms The Size Of Soccer Balls Grow Around Chicago

By Justin Breen | April 28, 2017 5:39am | Updated on April 28, 2017 7:26pm
 Calvatia gigantea, giant puffball mushrooms, sitting on the forest ground
Calvatia gigantea, giant puffball mushrooms, sitting on the forest ground
View Full Caption
Flickr Creative Commons/Gerda Kettner

NORTHBROOK — Check a patch of Chicago green space, and you might be lucky enough to find a mushroom that looks like a soccer ball.

The Calvatia Gigantea, or giant puffball mushroom, can be found all over Chicago, according to Patrick Leacock, an adjunct curator at Field Museum.

The mushrooms can grow to massive sizes: A 5-foot, 50-pound specimen is on record, according to mushroomexpert.com, a site run by Eastern Illinois University professor Michael Kuo.

"They can be found in open areas, pastures, golf courses, and also in the woods," Leacock said.

Leacock said Field Museum has records of Calvatia Gigantea at 26 places in the Chicago area, including 12 different forest preserves in Cook County. At each site, the giant mushroom has been seen as many as six times.

The mushrooms are edible when they are "young" and "pure white inside," Leacock said, and they occasionally will be picked by foragers. At River Trail Nature Center in suburban Northbrook, a sign warns visitors not to pick the mushrooms due to the decline in the area. Forest Preserves District of Cook County spokeswoman Stacina Stagner said the decline of the giant puffball is specific to River Trail Nature Center because of human action.

"The signs are to make people aware of their important role in the ecosystem," Stagner said.

There are other puffball mushrooms, including the skull-shaped puffball, purple-spored puffball and small purple-spored puffball, that have been found in the Chicago area, Leacock said.

It is illegal to forage in the Forest Preserves. Collection of plants and animals in the Forest Preserves of Cook County is strictly prohibited. This includes harvesting firewood; collecting mushrooms, wildflowers or other wild plants and their seeds; and otherwise removing or damaging any plants or trees. The penalty for foraging in the Forest Preserves is a citation and a fine between $75 and $500.