Bovista is a genus of fungi in the family Agaricaceae, commonly known as the true puffballs. It was formerly classified within the now-obsolete order Lycoperdales, which, following a restructuring of fungal taxonomy brought about by molecular phylogeny, has been split; the species of Bovista are now placed in the family Agaricaceae of the order Agaricales. The 46 species have a widespread distribution, and are found largely in temperate regions of the world. Various species have historically been used in homeopathic preparations.
Fruit bodies are oval to spherical to pear-shaped, and typically 1 to 8 cm (0.39 to 3.15 in) in diameter with a white or light-colored thin and fragile exoperidum (outer layer of the peridium). Depending on the species, the exoperidium in a young specimen may be smooth, granular, or finely echinulate. This exoperidium sloughs off at maturity to expose a smooth endoperidium with an apical pore. They may be attached to the ground by fine rhizomorphs that may appear like a small cord in some species. Spores are brown to purple-brown, roughly spherical or ellipsoid in shape, and 3.5–7 μm in diameter. At maturity, the entire fruit body may become detached from the ground, and the spores spread as the puffball is blown around. In Bovista, the capillitium (a network of thread-like cells in which the spores are embedded) are not connected directly to the peridial wall, but rather, they are made of separate units and branch irregularly, ending in tapered points.
Puffballs of the genus Bovista are generally edible when young and white inside, but caution must be taken to prevent confusion with immature, and potentially deadly Amanitas. This is done by cutting fruit bodies longitudinally to ensure that they are white throughout, and do not have internal structures within.
Phylogenetic analysis has shown that Bovista, as defined by Kreisel, is monophyletic. Also, Bovista may be split into two clades, Bovista and Globaris, that roughly correspond to the subgeneric divisions suggested by Kreisel. Bovistina is a related but separate genus that was created to describe species with the external features of a puffball, but with the glebal characters of a Geaster. Bovistella is another similar genus, it may be distinguished from Bovista by its ample sterile base.
Use in homeopathy
Reference to the genus has appeared in several 19th-century textbooks on homeopathy. Richard Hughes wrote in A Manual of Pharmacodynamics (1870) "Bovista is said to be indicated, and to have proved curative in head affections characterised by a sensation as if the head were enormously increased in size". In Lectures on Clinical Materia Medica (1887), E. A. Farrington claims that Bovista spores restrict blood circulation through the capillaries, and suggests uses associated with menstrual irregularity, or trauma. He also mentions that Bovista produces some symptoms of suffocation, and might be useful in remedying asphyxiation resulting from inhalation of charcoal fumes. Even more ailments have been suggested to be improved with use of Bovista, such as "awkwardness in speech and action", "stuttering or stammering children", "palpitation after a meal", diabetes mellitus, ovarian cysts, and "acne due to cosmetics". Ernst E (2002). "A systematic review of systematic reviews of homeopathy". Br J Clin Pharmacol 54 (6): 577–582. doi:10.1046/j.1365-2125.2002.01699.x. PMC 1874503. PMID 12492603..</ref>
- reported in South Africa
- Bovista aestivalis
- Bovista aspara
- Bovista bovistoides
- Bovista brunnea
- Bovista capensis
- Bovista citrina
- Bovista colorata
- Bovista coprophila
- Bovista cretacea
- Bovista dermoxantha
- Bovista minor
- Bovista nigrescens - "Brown puffball"
- Bovista oblongispora
- Bovista ochrotricha
- Bovista paludosa - "Fen puffball"
- Bovista pila - "Tumbling puffball"
- Bovista plumbea - "Grey puffball"
- Bovista polymorpha
- Bovista pusilla - "Dwarf puffball"
- Bovista pusilloformis
- found in Finland
- reported from Mexico
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- Yousaf N, Kreisel H, Khalid AN. (2013). "Bovista himalaica sp. nov. (gasteroid fungi; Basidiomycetes) from Pakistan". Mycological Progress 12 (3): 569–74. doi:10.1007/s11557-012-0864-4.
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