Orange-colored Cordyceps
Cordyceps militaris

Orange-colored Cordyceps is also known as Chinese Butterfly Fungus. The size of each above-ground "cord" is about 3 inches. Each cord measures about 1/4 inch wide. To identify look a clublike cylindrical fungus; orange-buff or red-orange, with minute pimples on the head. Its preferred habitat is on moth or butterfly pupae buried in the ground, or decayed wood that has been buried under leaf litter.

These fungi can be very common in the Escambia wetland woods, but are often difficult to find. Only the cord part, the upper orange 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 several as they creat colonies off the same decaying matter. If you dig carefully around the base of what's sticking up you should see a thread (rhizomorphs) that leads to the host fungus. Most times when you dig under these cordyceps species you find something completely different -- a larva of some sort of beetle.

Cyclosporin (the drug used to prevent rejection after organ transplants) is produced by the fungus Tolypocladium inflatum.

There are some interesting stories in mycology about cordyceps as the fungi is known to do interesting and unexpected things, such as grow into all sorts of weird shapes and even different colors.



Photo bottom right courtesy Reid Walker, Crestview, Florida.

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