cordyceps's blog

Cordyceps militaris & Elaphocordyceps ophioglossoides

found in Western Washington State early October 2011

Elaphocordyceps ophioglossoides and Cordyceps militaris.
Photo © D. Winkler

Cordyceps militaris

Cordyceps militaris fruiting out of a lepidopteran pupa found by Marian Maxwell. As other trueCordyceps-species it is typified by brightly colored, fleshy stromata. A common name used in the UK is Scarlet Caterpillarclub. Photo © D. Winkler
Drumstick Truffleclub

A Cordyceps militaris stroma close-up showing the "blister"-like perithecia. Inside a perithecium longish asci sacs are embedded in which spores are produced. Photo © D. Winkler

A cross section reveals the structure of the fruiting body. Photo © D. Winkler

Note, how the perithecia are only partially submersed in the stroma of Cordyceps militaris. 

Elaphocordyceps ophioglossoides

Twin Elaphocordyceps ophioglossoides parasitizing on a twin deer truffle (Elaphomyces sp.).
Snaketongue Truffleclub is a good English name used in the UK. Until 2007 it was classified as a true Cordyceps in the Clavicipitaceae family, but now all truffle parasitizing Cordyceps and closely related species that attack nymphs of cicadas are classified as Elaphocordyceps based on an extensive phylogenetic study published by Sung et al. While Cordyceps militaris is the type species in the new Cordycipitaceae family, Elaphocordyceps and Ophiocordyceps species are in the newly erected Ophiocordycepitaceae with  Ophiocordyceps unilateralis as type specimen. 
This Elaphocordyceps ophioglossoides specimen was found by Christian Schwarz 
in the Sol Duc forests on the Olympic Peninsula. Photo © D. Winkler

Cross section of the stroma of Elaphocordyceps ophioglossoides. Photo © D. Winkler

The perithecia are completely immersed in stroma tissue in an ordinal arrangement, where perithecia are oriented in a right angle to the surface. 
In the lower center of the image a larva is visible, a parasite parasitizing a parasite, 
or more neutrally formulated "The web of life". Photo © D. Winkler

Sporulating Elaphocordyceps ophioglossoides. This photo was taken one day after the photo above showing the complete Cordyceps-truffle complex. Sporulation had commenced.
Whereas spores in the Cordycipitaceae subdivide into part-spores or propagules, spores in the Ophiocordycipitaceae remain whole and can not subdivide. Photo © D. Winkler

Elaphocordyceps capitata

The most common Cordyceps in the PNW seems to be Elaphocordyceps capitata, the Drumstick Truffleclub. This specimen was found by Thom O'Dell near Sol Duc on the Olympic Peninsula in late October 2008. Photo © D. Winkler

The fertile tissue (brown) of the Elaphocordyceps capitata stroma is very distinct from the non-fertile yellow tissue. Photo © D. Winkler

Two freshly dug Elaphocordyceps capitata specimen found near Breitenbush Hot Springs, OR in 2004. The stroma attaches in these specimens directly onto the Elaphomyces truffle, which it is parasitizing. Photo © D. Winkler

More images of other Cordyceps species on my MushRoaming webpages
Caterpillar fungus (Ophiocordyceps sinensis) pages
2012 Cordyceps Expedition to Tibet

Last edited Sun, 09/16/2012 - 04:28

Seattle Times Article on PSMS Mushroom Show includes Cordyceps militaris image


Here a close up of the stroma (= fruiting body) of the same Cordyceps militaris, which was originally found by Marian Maxwell, and generously left to me. 
Last edited Sun, 09/16/2012 - 04:27

MushRoaming Bolivia Jan. 2012



Amazing Amazon - MushRoaming Bolivia 
Jan. 20 to Feb 2, 2012


After last February's awesome tour in Ecuador, Larry Evans, Montana mycologist known from “Know your Mushrooms” and Daniel Winkler, MushRoaming LLC, will be teaming up again for an eco-tour exploring Bolivia's rich biodiversity and especially its mushrooms. We will meet in La Paz, explore the city and then slowly travel down the Andes to the cloud forest Yungas. Down in the Amazon rain forest we will travel half a day up river by canoe to an eco-lodge where will stay for 6 days surrounded by stunning pristine Amazon Rain Forest to explore the local funga, flora & fauna. Here we will have additional knowledgeable local guides assisting Larry who has researched the Amazonian funga for many years and Daniel. Then we will be returning to the high altitude environment and explore Uyuni, the worlds largest salt fields. More details on:


Lentinus strigosus is a beautiful mushroom, especially when young. It is also an edible. 
(Above the text: Phallus indusiatus, the Veiled Stinkhorn)

Last edited Sun, 09/16/2012 - 04:27

Gene that makes insect climb after infection isolated

An article in Discover magazine reports that Kelli Hoover and Michael Grove from Pennsylvania State University have just discovered one of the genes – LdMNPV – thatBaculovirus uses to control its moth hosts. After infection by the virus the moth will climb to a high place, ideally suited for the virus to spread its spores after the moth is killed in this prime location.

Many Cordyceps species direct their victims into locations that are optimal for host digestion and spore dispersal - i.e. Ophiocordyceps unilateralis, and they might use similar strategies as described in this interesting article. Don't forget to check out the links at the bottom of the article.

Reference: Hoover, K., M. Grove, M. Gardner, D.P. Hughes, J. McNeil and J. Slavicek. 2011. A gene for an extended phenotype. Science 333: 1401. 

Last edited Sun, 09/16/2012 - 04:26

"New" Cordyceps Article published

The final version of my paper "Caterpillar Fungus (Ophiocordyceps sinensis) Production and Sustainability on the Tibetan Plateau and in the Himalayas" has been published in Asian Medicine 5 (2009), p. 291–316.
This paper has been published before in Chinese Journal of Grassland vol. 32 Suppl. p. 96-108. However, the printed version was already outdated before it was published in June 2010 and I had an updated version online that was last update June 11, 2010.

The latest version to be downloaded here, last reviewed in March 2011 was unfortunately published as "2009".

Tong bu ra nyi

 Here a twin yartsa gunbu known in Amdo Tibetan as "Tongbu ranyi" (=1000 bu horn two), better translated as "two fruiting bodies occurring once among a thousand yartsa gunbu".

Last edited Sun, 09/16/2012 - 04:26

Cordyceps militaris en masse on the market in Chengdu

Today for lunch we had Cordyceps militaris, which was quite tasty and added nice color and texture  to the dish with its chanterelle-like yellow. The 5 to 12 cm long fruiting bodies come in long strands and are easy to use. In the past this cultivated medicinal fungus was quite costly. However, it was never as expensive as Ophiocordyceps sinensis, which still no one has figured out how to grow in order that it will produce fruiting bodies.

Well, this bit was written 6 weeks ago, and we took some of the fresh Cordyceps militariswith us to Lhasa where we enjoyed Cordyceps Pizza at the Kyichu hotel. The staff there is already used to me bringing in exotic mushrooms. Last year I found some Sulfur Shelf in Kongpo (Laetiporus sulpherus var. miniatus) and asked the cook to prepare it for our MushRoaming tour group. We also have been enjoying the Shaggy manes (Coprinus comatus) several times in past years that grow in the hotel's beautiful yard.

Dried and fresh Cordyceps militaris for sale on the market in Chengdu. Fresh Cordy only cost 12RMB per pound, dried ones 25 to 60RMB, great deal! Had to take a pound home, dry mushrooms are no problem with customs as long as there are no larvae in there.

Cordyceps militaris on a garlic & onion Pizza with some Lhasa beer, it does not get much better! 
Last edited Sun, 09/16/2012 - 04:26

Slim Bu Picking in 2011?

Having just visited yartsa gunbu collection areas in SW Qinghai's Gyegu / Yushu / JyekundoTibetan Autonomous Prefecture early June 2011 it was evident that 2011 will be a year with a harvest below average. Some locals estimated 60 to 70% of last years harvest, which was a banner year. A Gyegu dealer suspected only half the production of 2010. 
However, the Tibetan Plateau and the Himalayas have many different climate zones and I was hoping that some other areas would report a better harvest, but that seems not to be the case. I was also told from Garze / Ganzi / Kandze TAP in West Sichuan that this season is not very good and today I saw a newspaper article out of Bhutan that writes about the reduced harvest there. Since these a quite distinct areas located far apart on the Plateau, it seems like the whole harvest in 2011 will be lower than in 2010 and probably also below 2009 and 2008, but there are no reliable data to lift any of this out of sheer speculation. Still, since the 2010 harvest was so high it was to be expected that that the 2011 harvest would be bellow 2010 was to expected.

Yartsa Gunbu being dried over a yak dung heated stove sitting on top of a cooking pot full of boiling water. In the background in the tent a nomad cleaning fresh yartsa gunbu with a plastic hair brush.

The Gyegu / Yushu Yartsa Gunbu market is happening on June 6. It takes place in front of a lone building that survived that devastating April 2010 earthquake. In the back a destroyed building. The blue tents are omnipresent in Gyegu, since over 90% of the houses were lost. Although there is lot of construction activity right now, the extended frost period that stops the use of concrete slows down reconstruction considerably. Basically the hole town functions out of blue tents. In the morning of this day there was another earth small tremor.
Last edited Sun, 09/16/2012 - 04:25

Shrinking Yartsa Gunbu Harvest in Yushu Prefecture?

One of Qinghai most famous counties when it comes to caterpillar fungus resources is Zadoi / Dzato in Yushu / Gyegu Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture. The main objective of our field work here is looking into Ophiocordyceps sinensis sustainability issues. Unfortunately Qinghai Province has no program to collect yartsa gunbu production numbers. Thus we decided to ask collectors, dealers and administrators to get a feeling regarding changes in annual production. Most people interviewed report a lower "bu" harvest [besides the fact that 2011 is a lousy season here in Yushu TAP, Southwest Qinghai]. Everyone acknowledges that there are many more collectors on the mountains than there used to be, but still there is also less bu than there used to be. One common example is that areas that used to be very rich in bu have little left and that now they have to search much bigger areas with lower concentration. Maybe this shift is due to over-predation? So it looks like we are facing sustainability issues after all, too bad.

I am working with WWF China on an initiative to cut the collection season short to make sure some bu stays in the ground to fully sporulate and provide spores to infect larvae for the next harvest season. After having gone though a bunch of questions regarding yartsa gunbu harvest, income etc. we show a sequence of images depicting the different stages of maturing caterpillar fungus. Then I have a graph showing the life cycle of the ghost moth. Some collectors are totally fascinated by that info and even said, you should make brochures and get this info out. So far, most people reacted positively to the suggestion of cutting the season short when bu loses much of its value and sporulates heavily. In general everyone wants the resource secured and this approach makes sense to them and does not stop collection altogether.  Everyone is totally dependent on that fungal money, outright scarily so.



WWF's Norbu is sharing the maturing stages of caterpillar fungus with a collector lady, who suggested we should turn it into a brochure and get it on TV to inform all collectors.




A yartsa gunbu deal on the grassland. Zadoi midsize bu went for 38RMB a piece, roughly 5US$.

Bu collectors camp in the back country of Zadoi. In front typical habitat that is otherwise mainly yak summer pasture. There were several camps in this valley, this one had 50 tents, so roughly 150 to 250 people. Whole families move up here for the 5 weeks collection season.

Grandpa stays back with the kids too small to search for bu.
Last edited Sun, 09/16/2012 - 04:25

Research update from Qinghai

It seems that the 2011 harvest season might be less productive than last year's season, which was very good. 

Still the price for caterpillar fungus is quite similar to 2010, just a little bit higher so far. However the price might move up further if the harvest turns out to be disappointing due to worries about a shortage of yartsa gunbu supply. 

Several sources indicated that a dry winter is seen as the reason for a lower production. Although it is raining right now in Jyekundo = Yushu, at this point this moisture input would not increase the quantity of fruitings, but might improve the quality.

Anyway, a few more days on the grasslands might give us a better understanding what is actually going on.

Miss An showing some bu that goes for 125,000RMB [20,000USD] per pound


Swiss Caterpillar Secrets or Secretions

Meanwhile NZZ, Neue Zuericher Zeitung, Switzerland's leading news paper, informed their readers this week that in Qinghai Province people are searching the grasslands for precious caterpillar secretions ["Raupen-Sekret"]. NZZ also knew that these secretions are very desired in Tibetan and Chinese medicine.
Rather embarrasing journalistic secretions by a NZZ writer I'd say. 

Last edited Sun, 09/16/2012 - 04:23

New Cordyceps Articles and Reports from the New Season


In January an article was published in the International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms 12(4):427–434 (2010) entitled:
Ethnomycological use of Medicinal Chinese Caterpillar Fungus, Ophiocordyceps sinensis(Berk.) G. H. Sung et al. (Ascomycetes) in Northern Yunnan Province, SW China.

Authors: Jiyue Chen,1 Sangwoo Lee,2 Yongqiang Cao,1 Yanqiong Peng,1 Daniel Winkler,3 Darong Yang1
1 Key Laboratory of Tropical Forest Ecology, Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Kunming, Yunnan, China; 2 International Biological Material Research Center, Korea Research Institute of Bioscience and Biotechnology, Yusong Daejeon, South Korea; 3 EcoMontane Consulting, Kirkland, WA 98034, USA.

Although I am listed as a co-author and spend quite some time reviewing the paper, I was not part of the original research team. Here is a link to the summary. 


In April nearly the same team published in Mycotaxon a paper on a new Cordyceps species:Ophiocordyceps laojunshanensis found in NW Yunnan: It is characterized by slender stromata, sparse perithecia, and the unique habitat of growing in mosses

2011 Mycotaxon vol. 115, pp. 1–4


A new species of Ophiocordyceps (Clavicipitales, Ascomycota) 
from southwestern China

by Ji-Yue Chen, Yong-Qiang Cao, Da-Rong Yang & Ming-Hua Li

Here is a link to the summary

Interview in Tintling

Furthermore I have been interviewed by Tintling, the German Mushroom Magazine. The quite extensive interview with tons of mushroom pictures from Tibet, Bhutan, and North and South America, can now be downloaded as a pdf. It was publisched in Tintling  69, 2/2011, p.56-69

In German: Im Tintling, der deutschsprachigen Pilzzeitung, erschien im April 2011 [Heft 69, S.56-69] ein längeres Interview mit mir, das zudem reich bebildert ist mit zumeist Pilzbildern aus Tibet, Bhutan, und Nord- und Südamerika. Hier der Link zum Herunterladen.

First news reports are trickling in regarding the 2011 collection season, which is underway all over the Tibetan Plateau and the Himalayas.

In Nepal people start heading for the alpine areas to collect yarsagumba - caterpillar fungus. Villages get deserted and schools are closing too, just like in Tibet. Here an article from the Himalayan Times.

From Bhutan Kuensel reports that local elections needed to be moved, otherwise there would have been only few voters, since so many people are up in the mountains collecting Ophiocordyceps sinensis. Also in Bhutanobserver was an article on April 27, reporting that the government organized Cordyceps auctions established to maximize villagers fungal income will now be organized by the communities. Details can be read in theBhutan Observer. Special thanks to Francoise Pommaret who keeps me always posted on the latest developments in Bhutan.


Last edited Sun, 09/16/2012 - 04:23


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