POOF! Go the Pisolithus

It’s the middle of November and I can’t remember the last time it rained. Ironically, I think it was last summer. Our normally dry summer had more rain than our normally less dry Autumn. In Northern California, our hills are still dead-grass brown. Normally I’d say the horizon is covered in a carpet of gold velvet. Yet this year, I’m a little disgruntled with the brown horizon caused by the lack of rain. I know, I know. I should appreciate every moment of our gloriously perfect blue sky.  And most days I do, honestly. However, this dry weather isn’t great when you’re looking for mushrooms.  And at the start of “mushroom season,” that’s a bummer.

pisolithus azhizus

The only mushroom I’ve found is Pisolithus arhizus, aka the dyer’s puffball, aka the mushroom that resembles dog poop, aka the mushroom that explodes like a bomb when your kid stomps on it.

This past weekend we took a family hike into the woods to look for mushrooms. (I look for mushrooms, the kids just  run with pointy sticks.)


As we hike through meadowland, on another perfect not-a-wisp-of-cloud-in-the-sky day, I watch my son stomp on something, followed by a big brown cloud.

Son: MOM! Look what happens when I stomp on this! (POOF)

Me: What are you…wait! Stop! That’s a mush–


Me: Stop Stomp– (POOF)

Me: That’s a mushroom I want! Don’t breathe in the brown stuff! Wait – Stop! I said STOP-  STOMP! (POOF!!!)

By the time I’ve reached him, to physically stop him, I see  a massive Pisolithus now squashed into a massive, powdery, brown, mess.

Me: Listen up kids – if you see that again – DON’T YOU DARE STOMP ON IT. That’s a dye mushroom. A DYE MUSHROOM.

Daughter: Don’t worry Mom, I saw another one on the trail.

Son: Yeah, but, um… Mom? I squashed that one, too. Did you know that mushrooms make awesome brown explosions?


  1. are these poisionest my papillion dog sniffs them out and eats them at first I thought he was eating dog poop

    1. I don’t think they’re poisonous. However – my dog almost died from eating a fungus. Therefore – I strongly recommend you do everything in your power to prevent your pet from eating ANY mushroom.

  2. I just dyed some wool yarn with a dye bath made from about 6 or 7 of these recently (August 10, 2014) and the yarn (12 oz. to be exact) turned out beautifully. Sheeps wool came out dark auburn brown and alpaca a very dark golden brown. It’s a powerful dye. I smashed dried mushrooms, added a little detergent, boiled the put the chunks through a berry masher and then let it all sit overnight, and finally had a rather heavy coffee colored dye bath. We filtered it twice, added more water, and then added yarn mordanted with alum, simmered it for 2-3 hours, and rinsed. Glorious!

    1. It’s the season for these guys – I’ve found two in a week. I expect you’ll dye a lot of yarn with that many mushrooms, sounds wonderful. I started experimenting with alpaca and have fallen in love with the fiber. I also have several skeins of llama, which I’ll be adding to my Pisolithus bath today.

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