Fungalpedia – Note 139 Sphaerobolus


Sphaerobolus Tode

Citation if using this entry: Bera et al. (in prep) Basidiomycota. Mycosphere

Index Fungorum, Facesoffungi, MycoBank, GenBank, Fig. 1

Basidiomycota, Agaricomycetes, Geastrales, Geastraceae

The name “Sphaerobolus signifies the ability of the fungus to eject glebae to a noteworthy distance (Geml et al. 2005a). The direction to eject the gleba is always towards the brightest source of light in the environment (Walker 1927, Buller 1933). This unique genus was first described by Pier Antonio Micheli in 1729 as Carpobolus P. Micheli but later Tode established it as Sphaerobolus (Vasava et al. 2021). The production of basidiospores in an enclosed structure and passive spore discharge mechanism make the genus a member of the class Gasteromycetes (Hibbett et al. 2007). However, the systematic position of Sphaerobolus has been quite ambivalent. The genus has been periodically placed under several orders such as Nidulariales (Dring 1973Ulloa & Hanlin 2000), Sclerodermatales (Hawksworth et al. 1996), and Lycoperdales or Phallales (Kirk et al. 2001). Regardless of this, the phylogenetic studies revealed that Sphaerobolus belongs to the gomphoid-phalloid clade with a close relationship with the representative genera of the clade: Clavariadelphus Donk , Gautieria Vittad., Geastrum Pers., Gomphus Pers., Phallus Junius ex L., Pseudocolus Lloyd , Ramaria Fr. ex Bonord. etc. (Hibbett et al. 1997Moncalvo et al. 2002Geml et al. 2005a, b). Currently, Sphaerobolus is placed under the order Geastrales (Hibbett et al. 1997Moncalvo et al. 2002Geml et al. 2005aHosaka et al. 2006Hibbett et al. 2007). The growth and reproductive mechanism of this genus have previously been extensively studied (Walker & Anderson 1925Walker 1927, Buller 1933Alasoadura 1963Ingold & Peach 1970Ingold 1971, 1972, Dykstra 1982Fletcher & Cooke 1984Geml et al. 2005aSakes et al. 2016). Commonly known as the “artillery fungus”, Sphaerobolus has whitish to orange, spherical basidiocarps diameter of 1–2 mm containing the gleba or peridiole (Geml et al. 2005a). The spores inside the gleba are of two types: thick-walled uninucleate basidiospores and thin-walled bi- or multinucleate asexual spores (elongated gemmae) (Walker 1927, Ingold 1972, Geml et al. 2005a). These two types of spores are crucial in both lignocolous and coprophilous survival strategy (Geml et al. 2005a). The glebae after ejection from the basidiocarp have a long-term survival mechanism (Walker 1927). The colonization of the substrate initiates after the germination of the glebae. This colonization is associated with the digestion of cellulose, hemicellulose, and lignin of the substrate which eventually causes the white rot (Geml et al. 2005a). After the completion of colonization, phototropic fruit bodies are produced orienting themselves towards the brightest source of light (Geml et al. 2005a). Sphaerobolus has been reported from Australia (Aplin 1961), USA (Coker & Couch 1974Ellis & Ellis 1990Geml et al. 2005a), Europe (Breitenbach & Kränzlin 1986), Africa (Calonge & Daniels 1998), Myanmar (Hosaka et al. 2020) and India (Butler & Bisby 1931Vasava et al. 2021) referring to its cosmopolitan habitat. This genus is mostly found on dung, decaying wood, or vegetative litter (Miller & Miller 1988). Presently, four species of the genus, Sphaerobolus stellatus (Tode) Pers., S. brunneocarneus Rick, S. ingoldii Geml, D.D. Davis & Geiser, and S. jaysukhianus A.M. Vasava, R.S. Patel & K.S. Rajput is known worldwide (Hawksworth et al. 1996Geml et al. 2005aVasava et al. 2021). 

Type species: Sphaerobolus stellatus (Tode) Pers.

Other accepted species: S. brunneocarneus Rick

S. ingoldii Geml, D.D. Davis & Geiser

S. jaysukhianus A.M. Vasava, R.S. Patel & K.S. Rajput


Figure 1. Sphaerobolus stellatus. a, b. Basidiomata. c. Basidiospores. Drawn from Hermawan & Maulana 2020



Alasoadura SO 1963 – Fruiting in Sphaerobolus with special reference to light. Annals of Botany, 27(1), 123–145.

Aplin THE 1961 – Sphaerobolus stellatus, a new fungus for Western Australia. West Aust Nat, 8, 27–29.

Breitenbach J, Kränzlin F 1986 – Fungi of Switzerland, Vol. 2. Non gilled fungi-Heterobasidiomycetes, Aphyllophorales, Gasteromycetes. Fungi of Switzerland, Vol. 2. Non gilled fungi-Heterobasidiomycetes, Aphyllophorales, Gasteromycetes.

Buller AHR 1933 – Researches on fungi. Vol. 5. London: Longmans, Green & Co.

Butler EJ, Bisby GR 1931 – The Fungi of India. Imperical Council of Agricultural Research India. Science Monograph, 1.

Calonge FD, Daniëls PP 1998 – Fungi from the Dja Biosphere Reserve (Cameroon). Notes on some Gasteromycetes.

Coker WC, Couch JN 1974 – The gasteromycetes of the eastern United States and Canada. Courier Corporation.

Dring DM 1964 – Gasteromycetes of west tropical Africa. Mycological papers, 98, 1–60.

Dykstra MJ 1982 – A cytological examination of Sphaerobolus stellatus fruiting bodies. Mycologia, 74(1), 44–53.

Ellis MB, Ellis JP 1990 – Fungi without gills (Hymenomycetes and Gasteromycetes): an identification handbook. Springer Science & Business Media.

Fletcher M, Cooke RC 1984 – Carbohydrate changes in the developing sporophore of Sphaerobolus stellatus. Transactions of the British Mycological Society, 82(2), 366–369.

Geml J, Davis DD, Geiser DM 2005a – Systematics of the genus Sphaerobolus based on molecular and morphological data, with the description of Sphaerobolus ingoldii sp. nov. Mycologia, 97(3), 680–694.

Geml J, Davis DD, Geiser DM 2005b – Phylogenetic analyses reveal deeply divergent species lineages in the genus Sphaerobolus (Phallales: Basidiomycota). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 35(2), 313–322.

Hawksworth DL, Kirk PM, Sutton BC, Pegler DN 1996 – Ainsworth & Bisby’s dictionary of the fungi. 8th ed. New York: Oxford University Press Inc.

Hermawan R, Maulana I 2020 – Sphaerobolus stellatus: Cannonball Mushroom from West Java. mJurnal Mikologi Indonesia, 4(2), 218–222.

Hibbett DS, Binder M, Bischoff JF, Blackwell M, Cannon PF, Eriksson OE, … Zhang N 2007 – A higher-level phylogenetic classification of the Fungi. Mycological research, 111(5), 509–547.

Hibbett DS, Pine EM, Langer E, Langer G, Donoghue MJ 1997 – Evolution of gilled mushrooms and puffballs inferred from ribosomal DNA sequences. Proceedings of the national academy of sciences, 94(22), 12002–12006.

Hosaka K, Bates ST, Beever RE, Castellano MA, Colgan III W, Domínguez LS, Trappe JM 2006 – Molecular phylogenetics of the gomphoid-phalloid fungi with an establishment of the new subclass Phallomycetidae and two new orders. Mycologia, 98(6), 949–959.

Hosaka K, Nam K, Linn WW, Aung MM 2020 – First record of a species in the genus Sphaerobolus (Geastrales) from Myanmar. Bulletin of the National Museum of Nature and Science, Series B, 46, 101–106.

Ingold CT 1971 – The glebal mass of Sphaerobolus. Transactions of the British Mycological Society, 56(1), 105–113.

Ingold CT 1972 – Sphaerobolus: the story of a fungus. Transactions of the British Mycological Society, 58(2), 179–195.

Ingold CT, Peach J 1970 – Further observations on fruiting in Sphaerobolus in relation to light. Transactions of the British Mycological Society, 54(2), 211–220.

Kirk PM, Cannon PF, David JC, Stalpers JA 2001 – Dictionary of the Fungi. 9th ed. Wallingford, U.K.: CAB International. 

Miller OK, Miller H 1988 – Gasteromycetes: morphological and developmental features with keys to the orders, families, and genera. Eureka, Calif: Mad River Press.

Moncalvo JM, Vilgalys R, Redhead SA, Johnson JE, James TY, Aime MC, … Miller Jr OK 2002 – One hundred and seventeen clades of euagarics. Molecular phylogenetics and evolution, 23(3), 357–400.

Sakes A, van der Wiel M, Henselmans PW, van Leeuwen JL, Dodou D, Breedveld P 2016 – Shooting mechanisms in nature: a systematic review. Plos one, 11(7), e0158277.

Ulloa M, Hanlin RT 2000 – Illustrated dictionary of mycology. APS press.

Vasava AM, Patel RS, Rajput KS 2021 – Sphaerobolus jaysukhianus sp. nov.: An artillery fungus (Geastraceae, Basidiomycota) from India. Plant Biosystems-An International Journal Dealing with all Aspects of Plant Biology, 155(5), 963–970.

Walker LB 1927 – Development and mechanism of discharge in Sphaerobolus iowensis n. sp. and S. stellatus Tode. Journal of the Elisha Mitchell Scientific Society, 42(3/4), 151–178.

Walker LB, Andersen EN 1925 – Relation of glycogen to spore-ejection. Mycologia, 17(4), 154–159.


Entry by

Ishika Bera, Center of Excellence in Fungal Research, Mae Fah Luang University, Chiang Rai 57100, Thailand


(Edited by Kevin D Hyde)