|Major Groups > Mycotrophs > Asterophora lycoperdoides|
by Michael Kuo
This fascinating mushroom is a parasite on other mushrooms--primarily species of blushing russulas like Russula densifolia. It pops right out of the top of its victim, usually when the Russula has blackened and begun to decay.
Believe it or not, there are other mushrooms that parasitize russulas and are superficially similar, including species of Collybia and the other species of Asterophora, Asterophora parasitica. Among these parasites, Asterophora lycoperdoides is unique in having a cap that soon becomes powdery, and gills that are poorly formed or almost absent. See the Key to 25 Mycotrophs for more help separating these species.
The powdery cap of Asterophora lycoperdoides is the result of its reproductive strategy. Like Quaking Aspen trees, which hedge their odds by reproducing not only through "normal" sexual means (flowers, seeds, and so on) but also by cloning themselves asexually (saplings arising from root systems), Asterophora lycoperdoides is ready to survive with or without genetic diversity. The poorly formed gills occasionally bear basidia and produce sexual spores--but the cells in the cap surface also produce asexual "chlamydospores," ready to clone the organism, resulting in the powdery texture.
Ecology: Parasitic on species of Russula and Lactarius (especially Russula nigricans, Russula densifolia, and closely related blushing russulas); usually appearing when the victim has begun to blacken and decay; found in a variety of forests since the victims are mycorrhizal with both hardwoods and conifers; summer, fall, and winter (in warmer climates); widely distributed in North America but apparently more common east of the Great Plains.
Cap: 1-2.5 cm; convex or nearly round; dry; at first whitish and a little bit roughened or lumpy, becoming brownish and powdery.
Gills: Usually poorly formed and veinlike; attached to the stem; thick; distant; whitish or grayish.
Stem: 2-5 cm long; up to 1 cm thick; more or less equal; dry; smooth or velvety; whitish to brownish; basal mycelium whitish to brownish.
Flesh: White; unchanging when sliced.
Taste: Mealy; odor mealy.
Spore Print: Often hard to obtain; white.
Microscopic Features: Basidiospores when present 5-6 x 3.5-4 µ; smooth; elliptical; inamyloid. Chlamydospores 14-17 x 12-16 µ; spiny.
Nyctalis asterophora is a synonym.
REFERENCES: (Bulliard, 1784) Ditmar, 1809. (Smith, Smith & Weber, 1979; Arora, 1986; Phillips, 1991/2005; Lincoff, 1992; Horn, Kay & Abel, 1993; Barron, 1999; Roody, 2003; McNeil, 2006.)
Further Online Information:
Cite this page as:
Kuo, M. (2006, October). Asterophora lycoperdoides. Retrieved from the MushroomExpert.Com Web site: http://www.mushroomexpert.com/asterophora_lycoperdoides.html