Synonyms: Calvatia subcretacea Zeller; Gastropila subcretacea (Zeller) P. Ponce de León
Fruiting body sessile, up to 5.0 cm tall, 6.0 cm broad, globose to cushion-shaped, occasionally turbinate, attached to the substrate via sparse white rhizomorphs; exoperidium surface whitish with mostly pointed pyramidal warts, up to 7.0 mm broad, 2.0-3.0 mm tall, the tips at first whitish, then grey-brown; endoperidum relatively thick, up to 3.0 mm, whitish, persistent with the exoperidium, sometimes yellowing when cut; peridium at maturity rigid, becoming brittle, fragmenting along the margins of the warts; gleba white, soft, becoming olivaceous-brown to dark olive-brown, finally dull-brown and powdery; subgleba and sterile base absent; odor of fresh gleba not distinctive; taste mild.
Spores 3.5-6.0 µm, globose, inconspicuously roughened at 400X, asperulate when viewed at 1000X (oil immersion), moderately thick-walled, possessing a central oil droplet and a short, up to 1.0 µm long hyaline pedicel; spores dark-brown in mass; capillitial pores slit-like and common.
Solitary to scattered under montane conifers in the spring; fruiting bodies often persisting into the summer; common.
Unknown, but probably edible when young and the gleba still white.
Handkea subcretacea, like its cousin, Handkea fumosa is a common montane species. Both fruit in the spring under conifers, are close in size, and have thick-walled fruiting bodies. The species nonetheless can usually be told apart at a glance, the peridum of Handkea fumosa areolate and greyish-brown, while that of H. subcretacea covered with whitish warts with grey-brown tips. Large specimens of Handkea subcretacea should be checked against immature Calbovista subsculpta. This normally much larger species differs in having a thick basal root and warts that are normally truncate, not pointed. Compare also with Lycoperdon marginatum. Known mostly from lower elevations, this puffball like Handkea subcretacea has a surface of pointed warts, but the tips are whitish, not grey-brown. Additionally, the exoperidium is not persistent with the endoperidum, but falls away from it in patches.