From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Termitomyces reticulatus 37340.jpg
Termitomyces reticulatus
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Fungi
Division: Basidiomycota
Class: Agaricomycetes
Order: Agaricales
Family: Lyophyllaceae
Genus: Termitomyces
R.Heim, 1942
Type species
Termitomyces striatus
(Beeli) R.Heim

1945 Podabrella Singer
1945 Rajapa Singer
1981 Sinotermitomyces M.Zang

Termitomyces is a genus of basidiomycete fungi belonging to the family Lyophyllaceae. There are about 30 species in the genus.[2] They are the food source for a subfamily of termites, the Macrotermitinae, who enjoy an obligate symbiosis with the genus similar to that between Atta ants and Attamyces mushrooms. Despite this relationship, spore transfer is still accomplished mainly by shedding from mushrooms, which protrude from the termite mounds.[3]


These mushrooms are edible for most people, and the larger species are a popular wild food where they occur. They include the largest edible mushroom in the world, Termitomyces titanicus of West Africa and Zambia, whose cap reaches 1 metre (3 ft) in diameter. These fungi grow on 'combs' which are formed from the termites' excreta, dominated by tough woody fragments. Termitomyces was circumscribed by Roger Heim in 1942.[4]

From 1955 to 1969 Arthur French [5] worked in Uganda (as a hobby) on the subject of fungi and termites. Some scientific literature about these fungal species existed previously, but these texts failed to adequately discuss the relationship between termites and their fungal symbiotes, while the various edible varieties were merely termed "termite mushrooms." French conducted some investigations with the help of the elderly Baganda women who gathered termite mushrooms, and published his findings.

Culinary use[edit]

This genus is a popular seasonal delicacy in the Indian state of Goa. For about two weeks at the beginning of August every year, clusters of villagers dot the Goan roadside hawking the handpicked mushrooms. A spicy gravy known as "Tonak" is a popular method of preparation. Since Termitomyces mushrooms are difficult to mass produce, they command a high price.[6]

Mushroom sellers in Panjim Goa


Other termite-associating fungi that may be confused with Termitomyces[edit]

  • Inedible fruiting bodies of the genus Podaxis, which may also grow from termitaria. Podaxis species can be easily distinguished from those of Termitomyces in that Podaxis fruiting bodies resemble a "stalked puffball," or an unopened shaggy mane, while those of Termitomyces resemble a stereotypical mushroom or toadstool.
  • In China, fruiting bodies of the unrelated, but edible Macrolepiota albuminosa may also grow from termitaria. M. albuminosa was once incorrectly placed within this genus as "Termitomyces albuminosa".


  1. ^ "Termitomyces R. Heim 1942". MycoBank. International Mycological Association. Retrieved 2010-12-23.
  2. ^ Kirk PM, Cannon PF, Minter DW, Stalpers JA (2008). Dictionary of the Fungi (10th ed.). Wallingford, UK: CABI. p. 682. ISBN 0-85199-826-7.
  3. ^ Mueller, U. G.; Gerardo, N. M.; Aanen, D. K.; Six, D. L.; Schultz, T. R. (2005). "The Evolution of Agriculture in Insects". Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics. 36: 563. doi:10.1146/annurev.ecolsys.36.102003.152626.
  4. ^ Heim R. (1942). "Nouvelles études descriptives sur les agarics termitophiles d'Afrique tropicale". Archives du Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle (in French). 18 (6): 107–66.
  5. ^ French A. (1993). "The Mushroom-Growing Termites of Uganda". Petits Propos Culinaires (44): 35–41.
  6. ^ http://blog.parrikar.com/2013/08/05/wild-mushrooms-of-goa/

See Tobias Frøslev's Termitomyces page [1] And an academic review of the relationship in Patterns of interaction specificity of fungus-growing termites and Termitomyces symbionts in South Africa Aanenet DK al BMC Evol Biol. 2007; 7: 115. [2]

External links[edit]