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Craterellus cornucopioides: The Black Trumpet

[ Basidiomycetes > Cantharellales > Craterellus . . . ]

Taxonomy in Transition: Canth/Crat Clade > Craterellus cornucopioides

by Michael Kuo

This fascinating mushroom is easily recognized, but not so easily found. Again and again, I have stared at patches of moss where black trumpets frequently grow for long minutes before actually seeing them. They are small and black, and something about their shape and fruiting pattern makes them extremely difficult to see.

Recent DNA studies have done us all a big favor and eliminated the need to examine subtle differences in spore print color or spore size when identifying the black trumpets, since several former "species" separated on these physical differences turn out to be genetically identical to good-old Craterellus cornucopioides, first classified by Linnaeus and given its current name by Persoon in 1825. Thus, we can forget about "Craterellus fallax," separated on the basis of its salmon buff or yellowish spore print (and its larger spores), and even "Craterellus konradii," separated on the basis of its pale yellow, rather than black, colors (see the illustrations to the right). If your Craterellus has a smooth under surface and is not a tiny little thing (under 2 cm across), the odds are now high that you have collected Craterellus cornucopioides. For more information on the DNA of Craterellus, see The Cantharellus / Craterellus Clade.


Ecology: Saprobic and potentially involved in some kind of relationship with moss, in my opinion. Species of Craterellus are officially labeled as mycorrhizal, but this is because of their association with Cantharellus in now-outdated taxonomic schemes, rather than because of their documented association with the rootlets of trees, and I will eat my hat if they are actually exclusively mycorrhizal. Craterellus cornucopioides grows alone, scattered, or gregariously in eastern North America, but typically in tightly packed clusters of four or more mushrooms on the West Coast (see the fifth photo, by Hugh Smith). It is widely distributed, and reported under hardwoods and conifers.

Fruiting Body: 2-7 cm wide; up to 10 cm high; tubular at first, becoming deeply vase-shaped; the upper edge rolled under when young and often partly rolled under in maturity; thin-fleshed; without a clearly defined cap and stem.

Upper (Inner) Surface: Black to dark gray (or, rarely, pale yellowish); smooth or, more commonly, roughened or finely scaly with dark fibers and scales over a paler, grayish or grayish brown base color.

Under (Outer) Surface: Smooth or very shallowly wrinkled; rarely with a few deeper folds near the cap margin; blackish (rarely pale yellowish), becoming dusted with the spore color at maturity (salmon tinged, yellowish, or whitish).

Flesh: Thin and brittle; blackish.

Odor and Taste: Taste mild; odor not distinctive or somewhat sweet and fragrant (but not usually as strongly fragrant as Craterellus foetidus).

Spore Print: Salmon tinged, yellowish, or whitish.

Microscopic Features: Spores 8-14 x 5-9 µ smooth; elliptical.

REFERENCES: (Linnaeus, 1753) Persoon, 1825 (Smith, 1949; Corner, 1966; Smith, 1968; Petersen, 1975; Bigelow, 1978; Smith, Smith & Weber, 1981; Thiers, 1985; Weber & Smith, 1985; Arora, 1986; Phillips, 1991/2005; Lincoff, 1992; Metzler & Metzler, 1992; Horn, Kay & Abel, 1993; Persson, 1997; Barron, 1999; Pilz et al., 2003; Roody, 2003; McNeil, 2006; Miller & Miller, 2006; Kuo, 2007.) Herb. Kuo 07079404, 02200304, 06160305, 07120705.

Further Online Information:

Craterellus fallax at Tom Volk's Fungi
Craterellus cornucopioides at MykoWeb
Craterellus cornucopioides at Roger's Mushrooms
Craterellus fallax at Roger's Mushrooms


Craterellus cornucopioides

Craterellus cornucopioides

Craterellus cornucopioides

Craterellus cornucopioides

Craterellus cornucopioides

Craterellus cornucopioides

"Craterellus konradii"

Craterellus cornucopioides

Craterellus cornucopioides

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Kuo, M. (2006, February). Craterellus cornucopioides: The black trumpet. Retrieved from the MushroomExpert.Com Web site: