Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Elfin Saddle

Elfin Saddle Mushroom, Helvella lacunosa
Looking more like a dead, decaying leaf than the mushroom that it is, the Elfin Saddle (Helvella lacunosa) is often overlooked for this very reason. It is in fact quite a common species in Ireland, as well as in the west of America and the other countries in Europe where it occurs and can be found under both hardwood and coniferous woods, as well as a variety of disturbed sites (1). The shape of its black coloured cap is quite variable, but often creates a saddle like form, hence its common name. The stem is attractively fluted and can be coloured black through to off white.
Elfin Saddle Mushroom, Helvella lacunosa
While many species of fungi are parasites of vascular plants, H. lacunosa is in fact itself the target species for not just one, but two parasitic fungi, the ascomycete Hypomyces cervinigenus (2) and the gilled fungus Clitocybe sclerotoidea (3). Any defence against these antagonists has as yet not been shown: a novel proteases isolated in from H. lacunosa, helvellasin, has been shown to have no antifungal properties (4).
Elfin Saddle Mushroom, Helvella lacunosa

  1. Kuo and Methven, 2010. 100 Cool Mushrooms  p. 85
  2. Rogerson and Horace, 1971. Mycologia 63 pp. 416-421
  3. Trappe, 1972. Mycologia 64 pp. 1337-1340
  4. Zhang et al., 2010. Journal of Bioscience and Bioengineering 109 pp. 20–24

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