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Clavaria zollingeri

[ Basidiomycetes > Agaricales > Clavariaceae > Clavaria . . . ]

by Michael Kuo

This is one cool little fungus. It looks like a tiny set of purple antlers, cast aside on a bed of moss under oaks and hickories in eastern North America. There are not many mushrooms that look like Clavaria zollingeri in North America. Alloclavaria purpurea is only superficially similar, and close inspection reveals its duller color and its spindle-shaped branches that do not look like antlers; Clavulina amethystinoides is dull lilac to tan, and does not feature graceful, antler-like branching.

A great big mess has been created in our North American field guides through misinterpretation of the name "Clavaria amethystina." (Yes, for those keeping score, one of those guides was authored by me.) Clavaria amethystina is a now-outdated synonym for Clavulina amethystina, a European species that does indeed look rather like Clavaria zollingeri, but differs substantially under the microscope (it has two-spored basidia, clamp connections, and large subglobose spores). Clavaria amethystina does not occur in North America, or anywhere else, for that matter; the name was officially cast into the taxonomic trash bin 80 years ago. Only in Europe, then, are there two look-alike species (Clavulina amethystina and Clavaria zollingeri) potentially requiring microscopic analysis to separate. In North America, the fungus that looks like the one in the illustrations to the right is Clavaria zollingeri.


Ecology: Saprobic; almost always found in moss under hardwoods; growing alone or in groups; summer and fall; eastern North America.

Fruiting Body: 2-10 cm high; individual elements usually sharing a common base, branching frequently or only occasionally, 2-6 mm wide; surface purple to pinkish purple, fading somewhat; tips rounded or irregular; base whitish.

Flesh: Brittle; purplish; thin.

Odor and Taste: Not distinctive or mildly radishlike.

Spore Print: White.

Chemical Reactions: Irons salts negative on all surfaces.

Microscopic Features: Spores 4-7 x 3-5.5 µ; ellipsoid; smooth; with an apiculus; inamyloid. Basidia clavate; 30-60 x 5-9 µ; 4-sterigmate; not basally clamped. Clamp connections absent.

REFERENCES: LÚveillÚ, 1846. (Saccardo, 1888; Corner, 1950; Smith, Smith & Weber, 1981; Weber & Smith, 1985; Phillips, 1991/2005; Metzler & Metzler, 1992; Roody, 2003; Miller & Miller, 2006; Kuo & Methven, 2010.) Herb. Kuo 05310403, 07110802.

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Clavaria zollingeri

Clavaria zollingeri

Clavaria zollingeri

Clavaria zollingeri
Spores and basidium

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Kuo, M. (2012, February). Clavaria zollingeri. Retrieved from the MushroomExpert.Com Web site: