Trial field key to the species of SARCOSOMATACEAE in the Pacific Northwest

Prepared for the Pacific Northwest Key Council
By Robert Maguire Sept. 1982
Copyright © 1982, 2003 Pacific Northwest Key Council
Photo copyright held by each photographer
Do not copy photos without permission

Reformatted with minor revision by Ian Gibson Feb. 2003

 

INTRODUCTION

The members of the family Sarcosomataceae are characterized by dark colored (brown to black), tough-textured, shallow to deep cup-shaped apothecia (fruiting bodies) with or without stipes (stems), growing in the spring / early summer on rotting wood, humus or soil. The sterile tissue of the exterior underside is typically dark colored.

The Sarcosomataceae found in the Pacific Northwest comprise nine species in five genera: Desmazierella, Neournula, Plectania, Pseudoplectania, and Sarcosoma.

Three additional species found in adjacent areas, but not yet recorded from the Pacific Northwest, are included for comparative purposes as noted under the closest species: Nannfeldtiella guildeniae, Sarcosoma globosum, and Urnula craterium.

Most of the larger cup fungi found are in the order Pezizales with Sarcosomataceae being one of the five families that have cup-shaped fruiting bodies. In order to key out Sarcosomataceae genera and species from other genera within the order Pezizales, the reader is referred to Harold J. Larsen's "Key to General of Operculate Cup Fungi (Pezizales) of the Pacific Northwest and Rocky Mountain Region" included in the Pacific Northwest Key Council keys.

The Sarcosomataceae described here either have not been tested for edibility or are very small sized, and as a result this family is generally not considered to be edible.

 

KEY TO SPECIES

1a Fruiting body showing some obvious gelatinous tissue when cut, usually 2-8 cm broad; more or less top-shaped, at least when young

1b Fruiting body lacking obvious gelatinous tissue when cut; mostly cup-shaped; size variable

2a Fruiting body medium sized (up to 4 cm), lacks highly gelatinized interior, exterior with almost colorless to olive hairs

................................................................................Sarcosoma latahense

FRUITING BODY top-shaped at first, then disc-shaped with short stem; texture gelatinous at first, becoming less so at maturity; upper surface purple-black to black, wavy; gray coloration of exterior surface resulting from relatively long, colorless to olive-brown hairs. HABIT and HABITAT saprophytic on decaying wood, litter and soil in coniferous forest, April through June. MICROSTRUCTURES spores 24-37 x 9-12 um, elliptical, without oil drops at maturity. REMARKS infrequent.Sarcosoma latahense
Sarcosoma latahense
Boleslaw Kuznik

2b Fruiting body large (4-10 cm), highly gelatinized interior, exterior with dark hairs

................................................................................Sarcosoma mexicanum

FRUITING BODY top-shaped at first, then becoming disc-shaped with thick, short gelatinous base; upper surface black; outside under-surface wrinkled and clothed with long, dark hairs, often roughened with dark brown granules. HABIT and HABITAT saprophytic on wood or duff, spring, summer and fall. MICROSTRUCTURES spores 23-24 x 10-14 um, elliptical with 1-3 oil drops -- with some mature specimens the presence or absence of oil drops may be the definitive characteristic in distinguishing between S. mexicanum and S. latahense. REMARKS widely distributed but not abundant.Sarcosoma mexicanum
Sarcosoma mexicanum
Michael Beug

Note: Sarcosoma globosum, an eastern species not yet authoritatively identified from the western states, differs by being nearly globose when young, and subglobose to flattened globose when mature, 4-10 cm broad, watery-gelatinous with sac-like base, with spores 23-26 x 10-12 um, ellipsoid, guttulation unknown, and short brown, monilioid tomentum hyphae.

3a (1b) Fruiting body with orange granules along top edge on outside

................................................................................Plectania melastoma

FRUITING BODY up to 3 cm wide, cup-shaped, usually with short stem; margin incurved and often split, but not lobed or stellate; inner surface black, smooth, glistening; exterior orange granules, which turn a wine purple color when placed in 3% KOH solution. HABIT and HABITAT saprophytic on conifer litter during spring, growing singly to clustered. MICROSTRUCTURES spores 21-24 x 8-10 um, ellipsoid-fusoid, smooth, with numerous oil drops at first, none at maturity; tomentum hyphae are encrusted with orange granules, no dark hyphae in medullary excipulum. REMARKS common.Plectania melastoma
Plectania melastoma
Michael Beug

3b Fruiting body lacking encrustation of orange granules on outside edge

4a Fruiting body small cup-shaped (1 to 2 cm wide, occasionally to 3 cm) with long, slender stem (2 to 6 cm long and 0.2-0.4cm wide)

................................................................................Plectania nannfeldtii

FRUITING BODY small, up to 1.5cm, cup-shaped with incurved margin, inner surface black, smooth; exterior black with delicate hairy surface. HABIT and HABITAT usually attached to buried wood and can be found on conifer duff. MICROSTRUCTURES spores 22-30 x 10-14 um, elliptical, smooth, or faintly rough, no oil drops at maturity. REMARKS common in early spring; see also Pseudoplectania melaena (8b).Plectania nannfeldtii
Plectania nannfeldtii
Kit Scates Barnhart

4b Fruiting body without long slender stem

5a Fruiting body cup-shaped or shallow urn-shaped with scalloped edge; inside surface pinkish brown and outside purplish brown with (buried) whitish base

................................................................................Neournula pouchetii

FRUITING BODY up to 3 cm wide and 5 cm high, exterior pale tan to pale purple-brown with sparse, pale brown hairs on underside; stem up to 1 cm wide, usually buried. HABIT and HABITAT saprophytic on conifer duff (cedar, hemlock), spring and summer. MICROSTRUCTURES spores 23-32 x 8-10 um, oblong-elliptical, smooth at first, warty at maturity. REMARKS rare.Neournula pouchetii
Neournula pouchetii
Michael Beug

Note: Urnula craterium has not been authoritatively identified from the Pacific Northwest but is similar to Urnula pouchetii without the coloration. Fruiting body large (up to 10-12 cm long and 3-10 cm wide), dark brown becoming black at maturity; base up to 4 cm long; margin scalloped. Spores 25-35 x 12-14 um, narrowly elliptic, smooth. Common on fallen hardwood east of the Great Plains; however, its reported occurrence in the Pacific Northwest is highly doubtful. A similar species, U. hiemalis, is found in Alaska.

5b Fruiting body not fitting above description

6a Fruiting body minute (up to 0.5 cm wide), upper surface whitish to slightly bluish-green, under (outer) surface brown with stiff dark brown hairs; habitat restricted to fallen Scotch Pine needles. Rare.

................................................................................Desmazierella acicola

FRUITING BODY up to 0.5 cm wide, saucer-shaped with flat or slightly convex disc; inner surface whitish to slightly bluish green; flesh thick, white; outer surface brown. MICROSTRUCTURES spores 15-17 x 8-10 um, elliptical, smooth with rounded colorless apiculi on each end, spores containing two oil drops; setae (hairs) extending above the hymenium with some paraphyses extended as dark bristles out from the hymenium. Paraphyses contain dark brown melanin-like pigment accounting for its classification in the Sarcosomataceae. HABIT and HABITAT on fallen Scotch Pine needles, winter to early spring. REMARKS extremely rare.

6b Fruiting body blackish and cup-shaped or disc-shaped

7a Fruiting body with stellate (star-shaped) margin lacking obvious brown hairs. Rare.

................................................................................Plectania milleri

FRUITING BODY up to 4 cm wide, cup-shaped to disc-shaped, usually lacking any stem; interior surface purple-brown, black when dry; exterior black with black hairs on underside not conspicuous on margin. HABIT and HABITAT saprophytic on conifer duff during late spring. MICROSTRUCTURES spores 21-26 x 9-10 um, elliptical, smooth, colorless, with no oil drops. REMARKS rare.Plectania milleri
Plectania milleri
Michael Beug

Note: With immature specimens this species is very similar to spherical-spored Pseudoplectania nigrella; however, at this stage spores may not be obtainable. With mature specimens the larger cup size and stellate margin on P. milleri and the marginal hairs of P. nigrella are sufficient to distinguish them. Plectania melaena (much more common) may also be mistaken when the orange granules wash off for Plectania milleri which is distinguished by stellate margin, and microscopically by dark hyphae penetrating the medullary excipulum and smooth tomentum hyphae.

7b Fruiting body lacking star-shaped margin (when in doubt make this choice)

8a Fruiting body inner surface black, exterior almost black with brownish cast (coming from almost invisible pressed-down fuzzy hairs), width 0.5-2 cm

................................................................................Pseudoplectania nigrella

FRUITING BODY 0.5-2 cm wide, spherical at first, then expanding to cup-shaped or disc-shaped; stem usually lacking; margin slightly incurved and often wavy, stiff with brown hairs best seen under 10x hand lens. HABITAT widespread on rotting coniferous wood, litter, and soil, spring and summer. MICROSTRUCTURES spores 10-12 um in diameter, spherical, smooth, transparent with granular contents. REMARKS common.Pseudoplectania nigrella
Pseudoplectania nigrella
Kit Scates Barnhart

Note: Nannfeldtiella guldeniae (N. aggregata) has not been authoritatively identified from the Pacific Northwest, but is included because it is expected that it will eventually be found. Fruiting body usually less than 1 cm wide; shallowly cup-shaped becoming expanded, incurving margin; interior surface dark violaceous brown, darker than exterior, which is dark brown, without hairs; stem lacking. It is terrestrial, growing in clumps, generally associated with minute (about 0.5 cm wide) orange-colored Octospora aggregata. Spores are 16-19 x 7.5-8.5 um, colorless, apiculate (pointed leaf-shaped) with several oil drops on each end, finely warted and cyanophilic.

8b Fruiting body inner surface yellowish brown spotted black when young becoming black in old age, width usually 2-4 cm, but on occasion up to 8-9 cm, variable length stem

................................................................................Pseudoplectania melaena

FRUITING BODY cup-shaped to shallow saucer / repand; exterior black with coarsely roughened surface without visible hairs; stem length up to 6 cm long and 0.2-0.4 cm wide. HABITAT saprophytic on rotting conifer wood. MICROSTRUCTURES spores 12-17 um wide, spherical, smooth. REMARKS if long stemmed and old and not very wide, may resemble Plectania nannfeldtii.Pseudoplectania melaena
Pseudoplectania melaena
Andrew Parker

 

GLOSSARY

apothecium (plural apothecia) - fruiting body

cyanophilic - readily stained with cotton blue

excipulum - tissue containing the hymenium (spore-bearing surface)

globose - round, spherical, globe-shaped

guttulation - formation of droplets

hymenium - fertile area of a fruiting body where asci and ascospores are produced, often differing in color, texture or topography from remainder: usually the inner surface of cup-shaped / disc-shaped species or top layer of repand-shaped species.

medullary excipulum - tissue below the generative layer in an apothecium.

monilioid - having swellings at regular intervals, like a string of beads

repand - shape of disc-shaped apothecium, having downward-curved margin.

saprophytic - living on decaying organic matter.

stellate - star-shaped.

subglobose - nearly spherical

terrestrial - growing on the ground.

 

APPENDIX ON PROCESSING OF SPECIMENS

  1. Record the following data about specimen:
    1. Where collected (as specific as possible)
    2. Habitat and substrate
    3. Date collected
    4. Name of collector
    5. General description of specimen (size, shape, color of hymenium and exterior, etc.)
    6. Slide photos, etc. are frequently helpful, if of a fresh specimen
  2. Air dry specimen (open brown paper bag works fine)
  3. Mail to specialist (with data)

 

REFERENCES

  1. Larsen, Harold J. 1981. "Key to Genera of the Operculate Cup Fungi (Pezizales) of the Pacific Northwest and Rocky Mountain Regions." Pacific Northwest Key Council.
  2. Larsen, Harold J, William C. Denison. 1978. "A Checklist of Operculate Cup-Fungi (Pezizales) of North America, West of the Great Plains." Mycotaxon 7(1): 68-90.
  3. Paden, J.W., E.E. Tylutki. 1969. "Idaho Discomycetes II." Mycologia 61: 683-693.
  4. Smith, Alexander H. 1975. A Field Guide to Western Mushrooms. University of Michigan Press. Ann Arbor.
  5. Tylutki, Edmund E. Mushrooms of Idaho and the Pacific Northwest Volume I - Discomycetes. University of Idaho Press. Moscow, Idaho.

 

INDEX

 GENUS AND SPECIES KEY ENTRIES
   
 DESMAZIERELLA Lib.  
    D. acicola Lib. 6a
 NEOURNULA Paden& Tylutki  
    N. pouchetii (Berthet & Riousset) Paden 5a
 PLECTANIA Fuckel  
    P. melastoma (Sow. ex Fr.) Fuckel 3a
    P. milleri Paden & Tylutki 7a
    P. nannfeldtii Korf 4a
 PSEUDOPLECTANIA Fuckel  
    P. melaena (Fr.) Boud. 8b
    P. nigrella (Pers. ex Fr.) Fuckel 8a
 SARCOSOMA Casp.  
    S. mexicanum (Ellis & Holway) Paden & Tylutki 2b
    S. latahense Paden & Tylutki 2a

 

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