Tom Volk's Fungus of the Month for January 1998

This month's fungus is Cordyceps ophioglossoides, a parasite of another fungus, Elaphomyces

For the rest of my pages on fungi, please click

Cordyceps ophioglossoides Have you ever seen these two fungi before? They can be very common in the north woods, but are often difficult to find. Only the Cordceps part, the upper black portion with a little bit of yellow), sticks up from the ground and is quite difficult to see. But when you find one you usually find a hundred of them. Now comes the fun part! Start digging carefullly around the base of what's sticking up and trace the yellow threads (rhizomorphs) to the host fungus, a false truffle called Elaphomyces. The false truffle is another ascomycete that has a mycorrhizal relationship with various trees, mostly oaks or pines. It is often parasitized by Cordyceps ophioglossoides, shown here, or another species Cordyceps xxx, which lacks the yellow rhizomorphs. This is often the esasiest way to find the Elaphomyces, which, unlike the true truffles, lacks a stong smell. Both of these fungi are members of the Ascomycota, which produce their sexual spores in small sacs called asci. The image to the left links to a much more spectacular 262 kb image with much higher resolution. Thanks to Dan Lindner Czederpiltz and Cindy Bergman for helping excavate this fungus to take this picture

Cordyceps militaris Sometimes when you dig under one of these cordyceps species you find somethign completely different-- a larva of some sort of beetle! The image the the left is another Cordyceps species (Cordyceps militaris?) that parasitizes underground insects.
Cyclosporin (the drug used to prevent rejection after organ transplants) is produced by the fungus Tolypocladium inflatum. Click here for more information about the rediscovery of this fungus and its meiotic stage in New York state by Kathie Hodge et al. The sexual state of this fungus is now known to be Cordyceps subsessilis, an extremely rare fungus that has been reported only five or six times before.
There are lots of interesting stories in Mycology. The fungi are interesting and do interesting and unexpected things. And people often do interesting and unexpected things with the mushrooms. So get out into the woods and forests while you have the chance. There are lots of fun things waiting for you there!

If you have anything to add, or if you have corrections or comments, please write to me at

This page and other pages are © Copyright 1998 by Thomas J. Volk.

Return to Tom Volk's Fungi Home Page --

Return to Tom Volk's Fungus of the month pages listing