Ramaria formosa

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Ramaria formosa
AD2009Sep13 Ramaria pallida 01.jpg
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Fungi
Division: Basidiomycota
Class: Agaricomycetes
Order: Gomphales
Family: Gomphaceae
Genus: Ramaria
R. formosa
Binomial name
Ramaria formosa
(Pers.) Quél. (1888)
  • Clavaria formosa Pers. (1797)
  • Merisma formosum (Pers.) Lenz (1831)
  • Clavaria formosa Krombh. (1841)
  • Corallium formosum (Pers.) G.Hahn (1883)
Ramaria formosa
View the Mycomorphbox template that generates the following list
smooth hymenium
no distinct cap
hymenium attachment is irregular or not applicable
stipe is bare
spore print is yellow
ecology is mycorrhizal
edibility: poisonous

Ramaria formosa, commonly known as the salmon coral,[2][3] beautiful clavaria, handsome clavaria, yellow-tipped-[4] or pink coral fungus, is a coral fungus found in Asia, Europe and North America. It is widely held to be mildly poisonous if consumed, giving rise to acute gastrointestinal symptoms of nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and colicky pain. It is a pinkish, much-branched coral-shape reaching some 20 cm (8 in) high. Some forms collected in North America often lack the bitter taste common to European specimens and may represent a different species.


The fungus was initially described by Christian Hendrik Persoon in 1797 as Clavaria formosa.[5] In 1821, Elias Magnus Fries sanctioned the genus name Clavaria, and treated Ramaria as a section of Clavaria.[6] It was placed in its current genus by French mycologist Lucien Quélet in 1888.[7] Synonyms have resulted from transfers of the fungus to the now obsolete genera Merisma by Harald Othmar Lenz in 1831,[8] and to Corallium by Gotthold Hahn in 1883.[9]

The generic name is derived from Latin rāmus 'branch', while the specific epithet comes from the Latin formōsus 'beautiful'.[10] Common names include salmon coral,[11] beautiful clavaria, handsome clavaria,[12] yellow-tipped- or pink coral fungus.[13] There is some confusion over its classification as there is evidence the binomial name has been applied loosely to any coral fungus fitting the description, and thus some collections from North America may be a different species.[14]


The fruit body of Ramaria formosa grows to a height of 30 cm (12 in) and width of 15 cm (6 in);[15] it is a many-branched coral-like structure, the yellow-tipped pinkish branches arising from a thick base.[16] Terminal branches are less than 0.5 cm (0.2 in) in diameter. The flesh is white, with pink in the middle,[16] or pale orange. It may turn wine-coloured or blackish when bruised.[15] Old specimens may fade so the original colour is hard to distinguish. The smell is unpleasant and taste bitter.[16] However, the taste has been reported as indistinct in North American collections. Old specimens dry out and become brittle and chalk-like, so that rubbing the branches between one's fingers crumbles them into powder.[14]

Spores at 1000x magnifaction

Ramaria formosa produces a golden-yellow spore print.[14] The spores have a cylindrical to elliptical shape, and measure 8–15 by 4–6 µm. The spore surface features small warts that are arranged in confluent lines. Basidia (spore-bearing cells) are club-shaped, measuring 40–60 by 7–10 µm,[17] and have one to four sterigmata. In the stalk, the hyphae comprising the flesh are interwoven, while hyphae in the branches have a more parallel arrangement. Both types measure 4–13 µm wide. Some of the hyphae are gloeoplerous, meaning they have an oily or granular appearance when viewed under the microscope.[14] Clamp connections are present in the hyphae. Iron salts applied to the branches will cause a green colour change.[18]

Similar species[edit]

In Europe, it could be confused with two edible yellow coral fungi—the high yellow clavaria (Ramaria flava) and R. aurea. These have pale golden yellow flesh in their branches, unlike the white flesh of R. formosa. However, this difference can be hard to make out.[19] A general rule is to avoid all old coral fungi.[16] The North American species R. largentii has orange branches.[20] There are several other Ramaria species with yellow-tipped, salmon-coloured branches, including R. leptoformosa, R. neoformosa, R. raveneliana and R. rubricarnata. These are distinguished from R. formosa most reliably using microscopic characteristics.[20][21]

Distribution and habitat[edit]

Fruiting in autumn, Ramaria formosa is associated with beech and is found in Asia (Yunnan, China[22] and India[23]), Europe,[19] and North America. Forms from the western areas are known to occur under conifers.[14] In Cyprus, the fungus is thought to form mycorrhizal associations with golden oak (Quercus alnifolia).[24]


Consumption of the fungus results in acute gastrointestinal symptoms of nausea, vomiting, colicky abdominal pain and diarrhea. The toxins responsible are unknown to date. It has been reported as edible if the acrid tips are removed.[25] Toxicity notwithstanding, the fungus is used as a traditional medicine by the Gurjar and Bakarwal tribes in the Rajouri and Poonch districts of India. Fruit bodies are eaten with food after cooking, in the belief that they relieve body pain.[23] The fungus is also sold in markets in Lijiang, China.[22]


  1. ^ "GSD Species Synonymy: Ramaria formosa (Pers.) Quél". Species Fungorum. CAB International. Retrieved 18 November 2015.
  2. ^ "Ramaria formosa · salmon coral". The British Mycological Society. Retrieved 2021-05-21.
  3. ^ "Ramaria formosa (Pers.) Quél. – Salmon Coral". NBN Atlas. Retrieved 2021-05-21.
  4. ^ "Yellow-tipped Coral Fungus (Ramaria formosa)". Ninaturalist.nz. Retrieved 2021-05-21.
  5. ^ Persoon CH. (1797). "Commentatio de Fungis Clavaeformibus" (in Latin). Leipzig, Germany: Wolf: 41. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  6. ^ Fries EM (1821). Systema Mycologicum (in Latin). Vol. 1. Lund, Sweden: Ex Officina Berlingiana. p. 466.
  7. ^ Quélet L. (1888). "Flore mycologique de la France et des pays limitrophes" (in French). Paris: Octave Doin: 466. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  8. ^ Lenz HO. Die nützliche und schädliche Schwämme (in German). Gotha, Germany: Beckersche Buchhandlung. p. 95.
  9. ^ Hahn G. (1883). Der Pilzsammler (in German). Gera, Germany: Kanitz. p. 72.
  10. ^ Simpson DP. (1979). Cassell's Latin Dictionary (5 ed.). London: Cassell. p. 883. ISBN 978-0-304-52257-6.
  11. ^ Holden L. (July 2014). "English Names for fungi 2014". British Mycological Society. Retrieved 2015-11-18.
  12. ^ Hladký J. (1996). The Czech and the English Names of Mushrooms. Masarykova univerzita v Brně. p. 308. ISBN 978-80-210-1406-0.
  13. ^ Bresinsky A, Besl H (1990). A Colour Atlas of Poisonous Fungi: A Handbook for Pharmacists, Doctors, and Biologists. Würzburg, Germany: Wolfe Publishing. pp. 170–71. ISBN 978-0-7234-1576-3.
  14. ^ a b c d e Ammirati JF, Traquair JA, Horgen PA (1985). Poisonous Mushrooms of the Northern United States and Canada. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. pp. 306–10. ISBN 978-0-8166-1407-3.
  15. ^ a b Phillips R. (2006). Mushrooms. London, UK: Pan MacMillan. p. 346. ISBN 978-0-330-44237-4.
  16. ^ a b c d Zeitlmayr L. (1976). Wild Mushrooms: An Illustrated Handbook. Garden City Press, Hertfordshire. p. 108. ISBN 978-0-584-10324-3.
  17. ^ Courtecuisse R. (1999). Mushrooms of Britain and Europe. Collins Wildlife Trust Guides. London, UK: HarperCollins. pp. 356–57. ISBN 978-0-00-220012-7.
  18. ^ Kuo M, Methven A (2014). Mushrooms of the Midwest. Urbana, Illinois: University of Illinois Press. p. 332. ISBN 978-0-252-07976-4.
  19. ^ a b Nilson S, Persson O (1977). Fungi of Northern Europe 1: Larger Fungi (Excluding Gill-Fungi). Penguin. p. 64. ISBN 978-0-14-063005-3.
  20. ^ a b Davis RM, Sommer R, Menge JA (2012). Field Guide to Mushrooms of Western North America. University of California Press. pp. 296–97. ISBN 978-0-520-95360-4.
  21. ^ Roberts P, Evans S (2011). The Book of Fungi. Chicago, Illinois: University of Chicago Press. p. 501. ISBN 978-0-226-72117-0.
  22. ^ a b Petersen RH, Zang M. "Ramaria subgenera Ramaria and Laeticolora in Yunnan". Acta Botanica Yunnanica. 11 (4): 363–96.
  23. ^ a b Shah A, Bharati KA, Ahmad J, Sharma MP (2015). "New ethnomedicinal claims from Gujjar and Bakerwals tribes of Rajouri and Poonch districts of Jammu and Kashmir, India". Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 166: 119–28. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2015.01.056. PMID 25680841.
  24. ^ Loizides M. (2011). "Quercus Alnifolia: the indigenous Golden Oak of Cyprus and its fungi". Field Mycology. 12 (3): 81–88. doi:10.1016/j.fldmyc.2011.06.004.
  25. ^ North P. (1967). Poisonous Plants and Fungi in colour. Blandford Press & Pharmacological Society of Great Britain. pp. 109–10.

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