Synonyms: Calvatia fumosa Zeller; Gastropila fumosa (Zeller) P. Ponce de León
Fruiting body sessile, up to 4.0 cm tall, 5.0 cm broad, subglobose to cushion-shaped, the base often flattened, pleated, attached to the substrate via a mycelial cord; exoperidium when young, approximately 1.0 mm thick, whitish, minutely matted-tomentose (use hand lens), soon tinged light-brown to grey-brown, occasionally dark-brown, becoming patchy areolate, sometimes deeply incised in dry weather; endoperidium persistent with the exoperidium, up to 3.0 mm thick when fresh, hard and rigid when dry; spores released via cracks in the peridium or from rodent-gnawed holes; gleba when young, soft, white, becoming pale yellow-brown, then medium to dark-brown; odor often unpleasant during glebal maturation, powdery when dry; taste of immature gleba mild; subgleba and sterile base absent.
Spores 4.5-6.5 µm, globose, warted at 400X, coarsely so at 1000X, moderately thick-walled, with a central oil droplet, some with a short < 1.0 µm hyaline pedicel; capillitium with slit-like pores.
Solitary to scattered under montane conifers during the spring; common.
Handkea fumosa is a golf ball-sized puffball found at higher elevations of the Sierra Nevada. It is recognized by a thick, hard, greyish-brown exterior that varies from nearly glabrous to finely cracked. Additional identifying features include a basal mycelial cord and coarsely ornamented spores. It is often found with Handkea subcretacea, another small, thick-walled puffball. The two species are normally easily told apart, Handkea subcretacea having a surface of pointed, grey-brown tipped warts. Strongly areolate specimens of Hankea fumosa may resemble H. subcretacea but can be distinguished by their different attachment to the substrate and spore ornamentation.