What You Should Know
Gomphus clavatus is an edible species of fungus in the genus Gomphus native to Eurasia and North America. The fruit body is vase- or fan-shaped with wavy edges to its rim, and grows up to 15–16 cm (6–6 1⁄4 in) wide and 17 cm (6 3⁄4 in) tall. The upper surface or cap is orangish-brown to lilac, while the lower spore-bearing surface, the hymenium, is covered in wrinkles and ridges rather than gills or pores, and is a distinctive purple color.
Typically found in coniferous forests, Gomphus clavatus is mycorrhizal, and is associated with tree species in a variety of coniferous genera, particularly spruces and firs. It is more common at elevations of greater than 2,000 ft (600 m), in moist, shady areas with plenty of leaf litter. It has been placed on the national Red Lists of threatened fungi in 17 different European countries and is one of 33 species proposed for international conservation under the Bern Convention.
Gomphus clavatus is considered a choice edible but, unlike the other chanterelles, it often is insect-infested unless you find it very young.
Gomphus brevipes and Gomphus truncatus are identical to Gomphus clavatus, according to Giachini, and should be treated as synonyms.
Other names: Pig's Ears, The Violet Chanterelle, Clustered Chanterelle, Lievikovec Kyjakovitý (Slovakia), Violgubbe (Sweden), Violetā Cūkause (Latvia), Siatkoblaszek Maczugowaty (Poland), Schweinsohr (Germany), Køllekantarel (Norway), Fiolgubbe (France), Vurrik (Estonia), Stročkovec Kyjovitý (Czech Republic), Schweinsohr (Austria).
Gomphus clavatus Mushroom Identification
Mycorrhizal with conifers (especially spruces and firs); growing alone, scattered, or gregariously in northern and montane North America; summer and fall—or overwinter on the West Coast.
By maturity with one, two, or more caps arising from a shared stem and often fusing at their edges; up to 15 cm high and 20 cm across.
Lobed and irregular in outline; broadly convex at first, becoming shallowly to deeply depressed; dry; bald or with a few scattered, tiny scales; pale brown with lilac shades when fresh, fading to creamy tan.
Running down the stem; deeply wrinkled and cross-veined; dark lilac or purple when young but usually fading to pale lilac.
Often difficult to define with precision, but usually about 2–4 cm high and 1–3 cm wide; whitish below; lilac near the undersurface; sometimes bruising reddish-brown; bald above, but with a somewhat velvety base; basal mycelium white.
Yellowish white to pale lilac.
Spore 11–16 x 4.5–6.5 µm; long-ellipsoid to subamygdaliform; often flattened on the abaxial side; verrucose; hyaline to brownish in KOH, with numerous oil droplets. Clamp connections present.
Gomphus clavatus Taxonomy and Etymology
German naturalist Jacob Christian Schäffer described Elvela (subsequently Helvella) purpurascens in 1774. Austrian naturalist Franz Xaver von Wulfen gave it the name Clavaria elveloides in 1781, reporting that it appeared in the fir tree forests around Klagenfurt in August and was common around Hüttenberg. He recorded that poor people ate it, giving it the local name hare's ear. In 1796, mycologist Christian Hendrik Persoon described G. clavatus as Merulius clavatus, noting that it grew in grassy locations in woods. He noted it was the same species that Schäffer had described.
The specific epithet—derived from the Latin word clava (club) and meaning "club-shaped"—refers to the shape of young fruit bodies. In his 1801 Synopsis methodica fungorum, Persoon placed Merulius clavatus (recognising two varieties—violaceus and spadiceus) in the section Gomphus within Merulius.
British botanist Samuel Frederick Gray used Persoon's name, transferring the violet chanterelle to the genus Gomphus in 1821. As it was the first-named member of the genus it became the type species. The starting date of fungal taxonomy had been set as January 1, 1821, to coincide with the date of the works of Swedish naturalist Elias Magnus Fries, which meant the name required sanction by Fries (indicated in the name by a colon) to be considered valid. Thus the species was written as Gomphus clavatus (Pers.: Fr.) Gray. A 1987 revision of the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature set the starting date at May 1, 1753, the date of publication of the Species Plantarum, by Linnaeus. Hence, the name no longer requires the ratification of Fries' authority. Persoon followed suit in treating Gomphus as a separate genus in his 1825 work Mycologia Europaea. Here he recognized M. clavatus as the same species as Clavaria truncata described by Casimir Christoph Schmidel in 1796, calling the taxon Gomphus truncatus.
Fries himself declined to keep the genus separate, instead of classifying Gomphus as a tribus (subgenus) within the genus Cantharellus in his 1821 work Systema Mycologicum, the species becoming Cantharellus clavatus. He recognized four varieties: violaceo-spadiceus, carneus, purpurascens and umbrinus. Swiss mycologist Louis Secretan described three taxa—Merulius clavatus carneus, M. clavatus violaceus and M. clavatus purpurascens—in his 1833 work Mycographie Suisse. Many of his names have been rejected for nomenclatural purposes because Secretan had a narrow species concept, dividing many taxa into multiple species that were not supported by other authorities, and his works did not use binomial nomenclature consistently. Fries revised his classification in his 1838 book Epicrisis Systematis Mycologici seu Synopsis Hymenomycetum, placing it in a series—Deformes—in the genus Craterellus.
Paul Kummer raised many of Fries' tribi (subgenera) to genus rank in his 1871 work Der Führer in die Pilzkunde, classifying the violet chanterelle in the genus Thelephora. Jacques Emile Doassans and Narcisse Théophile Patouillard placed it in the genus Neurophyllum (also spelt Nevrophyllum) in 1886, removing it from Cantharellus on account of its orange spores. Charles Horton Peck discarded the name in 1887 and returned G. clavatus to Cantharellus. In 1891, German botanist Otto Kuntze published Revisio generum plantarum, his response to what he perceived as a poor method in existing nomenclature practice. He coined the genus Trombetta to incorporate the violet chanterelle, hence giving it the name Trombetta clavata. However, Kuntze's revisionary program was not accepted by the majority of botanists.
Alexander H. Smith treated Gomphus as a section within Cantharellus in his 1947 review of chanterelles in western North America, as he felt there were no consistent characteristics that distinguished the two genera. In 1966 E. J. H. Corner described a small-spored variety, G. clavatus var. parvispora, from specimens collected in Uganda; it is not considered to have independent taxonomic significance.
Research in the early 2000s combining the use of phylogenetic analyses of DNA sequences and more traditional morphology-based characters has resulted in a reshuffling of the species concept in Gomphus; as a result, G. clavatus is considered the only Gomphus species in North America. Comparison of the DNA sequences of species Gomphus brevipes and Gomphus truncatus has shown them to be genetically identical to G. clavatus, and they may be treated as synonyms.
Gray coined the name clubbed gomphe. In the Sherpa language of Nepal the fungus is known as Eeshyamo ("mother-in-law"), as its imposing fruit body is reminiscent of a mother-in-law, who has a dominant role in a Sherpa family.
Recipe: Gomphus clavatus Stir Fry
Sauté sliced pig's ears, garlic, onion, ginger, sweet peppers, tofu, and a cooking sauce made of tamari, Chinese black vinegar, and sake. Toss in some garlic chives at the end and serve over jasmine rice. That was pretty good. I made another dish with bacon which was also pretty good, but I credit that more to the bacon than the pig's ears.
Recipe: Artichoke Hearts and Gomphus clavatus
Sauté equal amounts of raw diced artichoke hearts with gomphus. Add garlic of course, and a pinch of tarragon, salt and pepper or chipotle powder in place of the pepper in 3 parts olive oil, 1 part butter. I usually start the artichokes first and add the rest 3-5 minutes later.
Recipe: A Recipe for Pig's Ears
Rinse the pig's ears thoroughly. Pat dry and slice very thin. In a lightly oiled saute pan place a piece of ginger to flavor oil and cook over high heat to release the flavor.
Place the thinly sliced pig's ears into the pan and toss over high heat until lightly browned and caramelized (about 5 minutes). At this point add a clove or two of garlic to taste.
Don't put the garlic in earlier as it will burn and provide an unpleasant bitter taste and aroma. Just let the garlic release its flavor and slightly brown and then immediately add a couple of tablespoons of chicken stock and cover.
Let stand to steam for 1 minute. The stock will have evaporated by this time. Place the pigs ears on paper towels to drain any excess oil and cover tightly with another layer of paper towel. Fold the edges of the paper towel inward to form a tight package of pigs ears.
Photo 1 - Author: Vavrin (Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported)
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Photo 4 - Author: Vavrin (Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported)
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