Ascocoryne Sarcoides: The Ultimate Mushroom Guide
About The Ascocoryne Sarcoides Mushroom
Ascocoryne Sarcoides is a beautiful mushroom that looks like a jelly fungus or a cup fungus, depending on which stage of its life cycle it is in when you find it. In its asexual, "anamorphic" stage, it produces cloned conidia (asexual spores) and looks like purple globs of jelly.
Found mainly on the trunks and branches of dead Beech trees, this colorful wood-rotting fungus can form large and conspicuous clusters. Purple lobes initially emerge out of wood, swell into the cup or disc-shaped ascocarps which typically coalesce to form a violet to purple to reddish-purple gelatinous, irregular mass.
In 2008, an isolate of A. sarcoides was observed to produce a series of volatiles including 6 to 9 carbon alcohols, ketones and alkanes. This mixture was called "Mycodiesel" because of its similarity to some existing fuel mixtures. The researchers have suggested that this, combined with its ability to digest cellulose, makes it a potential source of biofuel. The isolate was originally identified at Gliocladium roseum but its taxonomy was later revised to Ascococoryne sarcoides. Its genome was sequenced in 2012 to determine the genetic basis for the production of this volatiles.
Other names: Jelly Drops.
Ascocoryne Sarcoides Identification
Saprobic on the well-decayed wood of hardwoods; growing gregariously or clustered; fall and winter; widely distributed in North America.
Anamorphic stage initially lumpy and irregular, becoming more or less club-shaped, gelatinous, lavender to purple or wine red, forming brain-like masses that can stretch up to 20 cm across; teleomorphic stage cup-like to disc-like, gelatinous, purple and more or less bald on the upper surface, paler and bald or finely fuzzy on the undersurface, with or without a poorly defined stem-like structure; odorless.
Spores 13-21 x 3.5-5 µ; smooth; fusiform; biguttulate at first, developing more guttules and, eventually, a septum (rarely more than one septum); rarely with lemon-shaped conidia developing from the spore (and, when conidia develop, coalescing in chains). Asci eight-spored, with spores usually packed in four rows of two; up to 130 x 10 µ; extreme apices blue in Melzer's reagent. Paraphyses filiform, with subclavate or merely rounded apices 1-2 µ wide.
Ascocoryne Sarcoides Look-Alikes
Ascocoryne Cylichnium is very similar in appearence to A. sarcoides and the two species can only be differentiated with certainty by the spores. Based on spore measurements, the fungus in Figures 1 to 4 is A. sarcoides. When occurring as irregular masses, both species resemble basidiomycete jelly fungi. Unlike the jelly fungi, Ascocoryne species produce ascospores, not basidiospores.
Because it resembles the jelly fungi, A. sarcoides has been mistaken for the basidiomycete species Auricularia auricula and Tremella foliacea. T. foliacea is larger, brown, and leafy in appearance. Auricularia auricula is also larger, typically brown, is disc- or ear-shaped, with a ribbed undersurface. Microscopically, Tremella foliacea and Auricularia auricula are easily distinguished from A. sarcoides by the presence of basidia (rather than asci).
Ascocoryne Sarcoides Taxonomy & Etymology
This species was first described in 1781 by the Dutch naturalist Nikolaus Joseph von Jacquin (1727 - 1817) who named it Lichen sarcoides. The currently accepted scientific name Ascocoryne sarcoides dates from 1967, when Canadian mycologist James Walton Groves (1906 - 1970) and D E Wilson proposed the new genus Ascocoryne with the perfect (sexual) form of the Purple Jellydisc as the type species.
Synonyms of Ascocoryne sarcoides include Bulgaria sarcoides (Jacq.) Fr., Helvella sarcoides (Jacq.) Dicks., Lichen sarcoides Jacq., Tremella sarcoides (Jacq.) With., Acrospermum dubium Pers., Tremella dubia (Pers.) Pers., Tremella sarcoides (Jacq.) Pers., Coryne dubia (Pers.) Gray, Coryne sarcoides (Jacq.) Tul. & C. Tul., Ombrophila sarcoides (Jacq.) W. Phillips, Scleroderris majuscula Cooke & Massee, and Pirobasidium sarcoides (Jacq.) Höhn.
Ascocoryne, the genus name, is made up of Asco- the prefix indicating that this fungus belongs to the phylum Ascomycota (fungi whose sexual spores are produced inside asci), and coryne which comes from from the Greek corönë meaning 'knotted rod'. The specific epithet sarcoides means fleshy or flesh-like.
Ascocoryne Sarcoides Bioactive Compounds
Terphenylquinones are chemical compounds that are widely distributed among the fungi. Ascocoryne sarcoides have been shown to contain a terphenylquinone named ascocorynin—a chemical derivative of the compound benzoquinone. This pigment, when in alkaline solution, turns a dark violet, similar in color to the fruit bodies of the fungus.
Ascocorynin has moderate antibiotic activity, and was shown in laboratory tests to inhibit the growth of several Gram-positive bacteria, including the widely distributed food spoilage organism Bacillus stearothermophilus; however, it does not affect the growth on Gram-negative bacteria, nor does it have any anti-fungal activity.
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