Species of the Month: Cannonball Fungus

Winter is a great time for getting outdoors and exploring the different types of fungi in your region. Whether it’s in pine plantation, native bush, open paddocks, or even in your own backyard, you’ll see mushrooms popping up everywhere.

On a recent fungi photography hunt, I came across this special little fungus called Sphaerobolus stellatus. More commonly known as Cannonball Fungus, it’s found on rotting wood chips and decaying falling timber. They could even be growing in your garden mulch at home!

The tiny fruiting bodies of this fungi are about 3 mm across, and split open when ready to disperse their spores. After a small amount of time, pressure builds up inside the body, and eventually the peridiole (sack containing all the spores) shoots out like a cannonball. It has been noted these can travel as far as 3 metres, which is a mighty effort for such a tiny little thing! Why does it shoot out the cannonball you may ask? To disperse the spores of the fungus further away from the parent to a new substrate.

The Latin name “Sphaerobolus” means sphere thrower and “stellatus” refers to the star shaped receptacle that is left after the sphere has been ejected.

So now’s the time to rug up, and go and fulfil your fungi fetish! You never know what you could find!

Sheryl Holliday