Cordyceps (Clavicipitaceae, Ascomycota) collections made in the Great Smokey Mountains National Park: 1999

Joseph W. Spatafora
Department of Botany and Plant Pathology
Oregon State University
Corvallis, OR


From July 20 - 25, 1999, fungal collections were made in the Great Smokey Mountains National Park as part of the "Butterflies of the Soil" ATBI project. Special emphasis in collecting was placed on entomopathogenic fungi of the genus Cordyceps and related clavicipitalean taxa (Clavicipitaceae, Ascomycota). A total of 71 collections of 4 genera and 11 species were collected from the Clavicipitaceae. Many of the entomopathogenic fungi of the Clavicipitaceae are inconspicuous in nature and are rarely collected. The collections described below should significantly increase our knowledge of these fungi in terms of phenology, ecology, taxonomy and phylogenetics. An additional 23 collections of other fungi representing 12 genera and 18 species were collected to further the overall taxonomic coverage of the ATBI project.


During the 1930's E.B. Mains of The University of Michigan conducted several collecting expeditions in the Great Smokey Mountains National Park (GSMNP) (Mains 1939, 1948, 1950, 1957, 1959). The focus of much of his work was an alpha-taxonomic study of the entomopathogenic genus, Cordyceps. Since that time, no concerted effort has been made to systematically document, using modern techniques and methodology, the biodiversity and systematics of entomopathogenic fungi for the GSMNP park and the larger region of the southern Appalachians.

Cordyceps is a large genus of over 300 species worldwide with about 50 species known from the United States (Kobayasi, 1941, 1981, 1982; Mains 1939, 1948, 1950, 1957, 1959). It is a pathogen of organisms from nine orders of arthropods and one genus of ascomycetous truffles (Elaphomyces). Current species concepts of Cordyceps are based on morphology and most species are interpreted as exhibiting a host range that is limited to a genus or a family; however, it should be noted that the host identification for many collections is uncertain. The research reported herein is part of a larger NSF-funded research project (DEB-9806936) that is a systematic study of Cordyceps using phylogenetic analyses of molecular and morphological data and involves collecting throughout the southern Appalachians. The overall goal is to develop robust phylogenetic hypotheses for intrageneric relationships within Cordyceps and the evolution of its host-shifts.


Site selection. Six sites were selected for field collecting: Cades Cove, Big Creek, Pen Hollow, Alum Cove, Pretty Hollow Gap and the Fungus 1 transect. The Fungus 1 transect was established by the ATBI "Butterflies of the Soil" project. Collecting in this site was performed to conform to and contribute to this biodiversity study. The remaining localities were chosen based upon previous collecting records of E.B. Mains.

Collecting party. The collecting party consisted of myself (J.W. Spatafora) for all sites except for Fungus Transect 1, where I was accompanied by Hank Mashburn.

Collecting. All specimens collected were placed in individual compartments of a plastic tackle box. Upon arrival back at the field house, specimens were catalogued including notes on fresh characteristics, photographed and dried on an American Harvestor food dehydrator. Dried specimens were placed in small pill boxes for protection and curation. Dried specimens were then packaged for transport back to Oregon State University where they will be housed in the Mycological Collection of the Oregon State University Herbarium (OSC). An itinerary of the trip including travel dates and collecting dates and sites is provided in Table 1.


A total of 71 collections of 4 genera and 11 species were collected from the Clavicipitaceae within the GSMNP. An additional 23 collections of other fungi representing 12 genera and 18 species were collected to further the overall taxonomic coverage of the ATBI project. Table 2 provides a list of specimens collected per site. Table 3 provides a list of number of specimens collected by species and family.

The most commonly collected species were C. militaris, C. ophioglossoides and Paecilomyces farinosus (Table 2 and 3). These findings are consistent with other collections from the southern Appalachians outside of the GSMNP. One collection of particular interest was Spat 99-181/ OSC 69328. This collection does not correspond to the description of any known species of Cordyceps and may represent an undescribed species. Also, C. fracta, which is only known from the type collection, was collected as part of this study.

Future Collecting.

Collecting in the GSMNP and the southern Appalachians is scheduled for two more seasons, summer of 2000 and 2001. The collecting trip for 2000 is schedule for the first part of July and the collecting trip for 2001 is scheduled for August. This proposed schedule of collecting should allow for optimum coverage of Cordyceps fruiting over a three year period.


Kobayasi, Y. 1982. Keys to the taxa of the genera Cordyceps and Torrubiella. Trans. Mycol. Soc. Japan 23: 329-364.

Kobayasi, Y. 1981. Revision of the genus Cordyceps and its allies 2. Bull. Natl. Sci. Mus., Tokyo, B 7: 123-129.

Kobayasi, Y. 1941. The genus Cordyceps and its allies. Science reports of the Tokyo Bunrika Daigaku No. 84: 53-260.

Mains, E. B., 1959. Species of Hypocrella. Mycopath. Mycol. Appl. 11: 311-326.

Mains, E. B., 1958. North American entomogenous species of Cordyceps. Mycologia 50: 169-222.

Mains, E. B., 1957. Species of Cordyceps parasitic on Elaphomyces. Bull. Torrey. Bot. Club 84: 243-251.

Mains, E. B., 1950. Entomogenous species of Akanthomyces, Hymenostilbe and Insecticola in North America. Mycologia 42: 566-589.

Mains, E. B., 1948. Entomogenous fungi. Mycologia 40: 566-589.

Mains, E. B., 1939. Cordyceps from the mountains of North Carolina and Tennessee. Jour. Elisha Mitchell Society 55: 117-129.

Table 1. GSMNP collecting itinerary, July 20 ­ 25, 1999

July 20 Cade's Cove: Abram's Fall trail

July 21 Fungus Transect 1 and along Rough Fork Trail

July 22 Big Creek Trail

July 23 Cosby Campground: Pen Hollow Trail

July 24 Alum Cove Trail

July 25 Pretty Hollow Gap Trail

Table 2. Fungi Collected in GSMNP - 1999

Table 2A. Cade's Cove: Abram's Falls Trail

Coll. #accession #SpeciesFamily
Spat 99-130OSC 69277Paecilomyces cf. farinosusClavicipitaceae
Spat 99-131OSC 69278Paecilomyces cf. farinosusClavicipitaceae
Spat 99-132OSC 69279Paecilomyces cf. farinosusClavicipitaceae
Spat 99-135OSC 69282Cordyceps ophioglossoidesClavicipitaceae
Spat 99-136OSC 69283Beauveria sp.Clavicipitaceae
Spat 99-139OSC 69286Trichoglossum hirsutumGeoglossaceae
Spat 99-140OSC 69287Xylaria cf. percicinusXylariaceae

Table 2B. Fungus Transect 1

Coll. #accession #SpeciesFamily
Spat 99-133OSC 69280
FU 0264
Cordyceps variabilisClavicipitaceae
Spat 99-134OSC 69281
FU 0281
Cordyceps cf. fractaClavicipitaceae
Spat 99-141 OSC 69288Cordyceps acicularisClavicipitaceae
Spat 99-142 OSC 69289Cordyceps ophioglossoidesClavicipitaceae
Spat 99-155OSC 69302Paecilomyces cf. farinosusClavicipitaceae
Spat 99-159OSC 69306Cordyceps militarisClavicipitaceae
Spat 99-162OSC 69309Beauveria sp.Clavicipitaceae
Spat 99-173OSC 69319Cordyceps acicularisClavicipitaceae
Spat 99-174OSC 69320Cordyceps acicularisClavicipitaceae

Table 2C. Rough Fork Trail and vicinity of Fungus Transect 1.

Coll. #accession #SpeciesFamily
Spat 99-143OSC 69290Peziza sp.Pezizaceae
Spat 99-144OSC 69291Otidea grandisOtideaceae
Spat 99-145OSC 69292Otidea onoticaOtideaceae
Spat 99-146OSC 69293Daldinia concentricaXylariaceae
Spat 99-147OSC 69294Daldinia concentricaXylariaceae
Spat 99-148OSC 69295Helvella sp.Helvellaceae
Spat 99-149OSC 69296Humaria hemisphaericaHumariaceae
Spat 99-150OSC 69297Cantharellus cf. minorCantharellaceae
Spat 99-151OSC 69298Xylaria polymorphaXylariaceae
Spat 99-152OSC 69299Peziza violaceaPezizaceae
Spat 99-153OSC 69300Trichoglossum hirsutumGeoglossaceae
Spat 99-154OSC 69301Peziza badiaPezizaceae
Spat 99-156OSC 69303Paecilomyces cf. farinosusClavicipitaceae
Spat 99-157OSC 69304Paecilomyces cf. farinosusClavicipitaceae
Spat 99-158OSC 69305Paecilomyces cf. farinosusClavicipitaceae
Spat 99-160OSC 69307Cordyceps militarisClavicipitaceae
Spat 99-161OSC 69308Cordyceps militarisClavicipitaceae
Spat 99-163OSC 69310Cordyceps militarisClavicipitaceae
Spat 99-164OSC 69311Cordyceps militarisClavicipitaceae
Spat 99-165OSC 69312Cordyceps militarisClavicipitaceae
Spat 99-166OSC 69313Cordyceps militarisClavicipitaceae
Spat 99-167OSC 69314Cordyceps militarisClavicipitaceae
Spat 99-168OSC 69315Cordyceps militarisClavicipitaceae
Spat 99-169OSC 69316Cordyceps militarisClavicipitaceae
Spat 99-170OSC 69317Cordyceps militarisClavicipitaceae
Spat 99-171OSC 69318Cordyceps militarisClavicipitaceae
Spat 99-172OSC 69319Cordyceps militarisClavicipitaceae
Spat 99-174OSC 69322Scutellinia scutellataOtideaceae
Spat 99-176OSC 69323Peziza badiaPezizaceae

Table 2D. Big Creek Trail

Coll. #accession #SpeciesFamily
Spat 99-177OSC 69324Cantharellus cinnabarinusCantharellaceae
Spat 99-178OSC 69325Cordyceps capitataClavicipitaceae
Spat 99-179OSC 69326Cordyceps capitataClavicipitaceae
Spat 99-180OSC 69327Cordyceps sphecocephalaClavicipitaceae
Spat 99-181OSC 69328Cordyceps sp. nov.Clavicipitaceae
Spat 99-182OSC 69329Beauveria sp.Clavicipitaceae

Table 2E. Pen Hollow Trail at Cosby Camp ground

Coll. #accession #SpeciesFamily
Spat 99-183OSC 69330Paecilomyces cf. farinosusClavicipitaceae
Spat 99-184OSC 69331Paecilomyces cf. farinosusClavicipitaceae
Spat 99-185OSC 69332Paecilomyces cf. farinosusClavicipitaceae
Spat 99-186OSC 69333Paecilomyces cf. farinosusClavicipitaceae
Spat 99-187OSC 69334Paecilomyces cf. farinosusClavicipitaceae
Spat 99-188OSC 69335Cordyceps militarisClavicipitaceae
Spat 99-189OSC 69336Cordyceps militarisClavicipitaceae
Spat 99-190OSC 69337Cordyceps militarisClavicipitaceae
Spat 99-191OSC 69338Cordyceps militarisClavicipitaceae
Spat 99-192OSC 69339Cordyceps militarisClavicipitaceae
Spat 99-193OSC 69340Cordyceps militarisClavicipitaceae
Spat 99-194OSC 69341Cordyceps militarisClavicipitaceae
Spat 99-195OSC 69342Cordyceps militarisClavicipitaceae
Spat 99-196OSC 69343Cordyceps militarisClavicipitaceae
Spat 99-197OSC 69344Cordyceps militarisClavicipitaceae
Spat 99-198OSC 69345Cordyceps militarisClavicipitaceae
Spat 99-199OSC 69346Cordyceps militarisClavicipitaceae
Spat 99-200OSC 69347Cordyceps militarisClavicipitaceae
Spat 99-201OSC 69348Cordyceps militarisClavicipitaceae
Spat 99-202OSC 69349Cordyceps ophioglossoidesClavicipitaceae
Spat 99-203OSC 69350Cordyceps ophioglossoidesClavicipitaceae

Table 2F. Alum Cave Trail

Coll. #accession #SpeciesFamily
Spat 99-204OSC 69351Cordyceps militarisClavicipitaceae
Spat 99-205OSC 69352Cordyceps ophioglossoidesClavicipitaceae
Spat 99-206OSC 69353Cordyceps ophioglossoidesClavicipitaceae

Table 2G. Pretty Hollow Gap Trail

Coll. #accession #SpeciesFamily
Spat 99-137OSC 69284Cordyceps militarisClavicipitaceae
Spat 99-207OSC 69354Craterellus ignicolorCantharellaceae
Spat 99-208OSC 69355Craterellus ignicolorCantharellaceae
Spat 99-209OSC 69356Otidea sp.Otideaceae
Spat 99-210OSC 69357Otidea sp.Otideaceae
Spat 99-211OSC 69358Otidea sp.Otideaceae
Spat 99-212OSC 69359Podostroma alutaceaHypocreaceae
Spat 99-213OSC 69360Leotia viscosaLeotiaceae
Spat 99-214OSC 69361Cordyceps cf. capitataClavicipitaceae
Spat 99-215OSC 69362Cordyceps cf. fractaClavicipitaceae
Spat 99-216OSC 69363Cordyceps militarisClavicipitaceae
Spat 99-217OSC 69364Cordyceps militarisClavicipitaceae
Spat 99-218OSC 69365Cordyceps militarisClavicipitaceae
Spat 99-219OSC 69366Cordyceps militarisClavicipitaceae
Spat 99-220OSC 69367Cordyceps ophioglossoidesClavicipitaceae
Spat 99-221OSC 69368Cordyceps ophioglossoidesClavicipitaceae
Spat 99-222OSC 69369Cordyceps ophioglossoidesClavicipitaceae
Spat 99-223OSC 69370Paecilomyces cf. farinosusClavicipitaceae
Spat 99-224OSC 69371Paecilomyces cf. farinosusClavicipitaceae

Table 3. Total number of collections by taxon.

TaxonNumber of collections
Beauveria sp3
Cordyceps ophioglossoides9
Cordyceps variabilis1
Cordyceps cf. fracta2
Cordyceps acicularis3
Cordyceps militaris33
Cordyceps capitata3
Cordyceps sphecocephala1
Cordyceps sp. nov.1
Gibellula pulchra1
Paecilomyces cf. farinosus14
Cantharellus cinnabarinus1
Cantharellus cf. minor1
Craterellus ignicolor2
Daldinia concentrica2
Helvella sp.1
Humaria hemisphaerica1
Leotia viscosa1
Otidea grandis1
Otidea onotica1
Otidea sp.3
Peziza sp1
Peziza badia2
Peziza violacea1
Podostroma alutacea1
Trichoglossum hirsutum1
Scutellinia scutellata1
Xylaria polymorpha1
Xylaria percicinus1