Arizona Fungi
















Maintained by
S.T. Bates

  The diverse biotic communities found in Arizona provide a variety of habitats in which numerous fungal species can be encountered.  In terms of macrofungi, some of the most productive habitats in the state are located at higher altitudes within conifer forests.  In these areas, macrofungi categorized as saprobes break down woody forest debris, and thus play an important role in nutrient cycling.  Saprobic species include Ganoderma applanatum, Gymnopilus sapineus, and Lycoperdon pyriforme.  Mycorrhizal macrofungi, such as Amanita flavorubens and Russula brevipes, grow in association with tree roots and are frequently encountered in forested areas. These fungi are important components of forest systems because they facilitate nutrient absorption between plants and the soil.

  A multitude of macrofungal species are also present in the lower altitudes, where arid biomes often dominate.  Indeed, it might seem surprising that species such as Tulostoma xerophilum and Montagnea arenaria survive, and even thrive, in desert areas where extreme temperatures and lack of precipitation are the norm.  Rare species, such as Itajahya galericulata and Agaricus aridicola, are occasionally encountered in arid regions found throughout the state.

  Mycophagists are persons who enjoy eating fungi, especially those harvested in the wild.  Arizona has many species that will delight the mycophagist.  For example, species in the Boletus edulis complex are vigorously sought after by mushroom enthusiasts who attend wild mushroom forays within the state.  The word 'truffle' often elicits excited responses as it is considered to be "the diamond of the kitchen" by some.  Truffles are underground or 'hypogeous' macrofungi that are often mychorrhizal and normally encountered associated with a particular tree species.  Although several species of hypogeous macrofungi occur in the state, enthusiasts should take note - most of these species are 'false truffles'.  These fungi can be unpleasing to the pallet and best left to the squirrels, who use them as an important food source.  Mycophagists should also beware as in Arizona several poisonous species, particularly in the genus Amanita, are frequently encountered that can closely resemble edible species.


Please note: No mushroom should be consumed, unless it has been properly identified by a qualified individual!!


  British mycologist David Hawksworth put forth an estimate for the total number of fungal species present on Earth in the early 1990's.  He arrived at this number by ingenious means.  At that time, approximately 12,000 fungal species and 2000 vascular plant species were known to occur in Great Britain.  These numbers were then the used to form the ratio of six fungal species to every single vascular plant species.  The 6:1 ration was then used in conjunction with the number of plant species known world-wide to extrapolate the fungal estimate.  Hawksworth arrived at the working estimate of 1.5 million species, and although studies of little-known areas continue to argue for an increase to this estimate, it is still widely cited today. 

  We can use Hawksworth's method to contemplate the number of fungi present in Arizona.  There are approximately 3900 vascular plant species recorded from the state.  If we multiple that number by 6, then we arrive at an estimate of 23,400 fungal species occurring in the state.  Only a small fraction of that number have been recorded in the literature or are housed as specimens in herbaria (numbers are cited below).  This suggests the exciting possibility that thousand's of species of fungi still need to be discovered in Arizona.  Indeed, species that are new to science might even be awaiting discovery as well!  The Arizona Mycota Project hopes that you will assist us in this endeavor....

Numbers of Arizona fungi:

Nonlichenized Macrofungi (including Ectomycorrhizal species):    1290
Lichenized Fungi:     960
Soil Fungi or Fungi Associated with
Biological Soil Crusts:
    200 (unpub. data)
Molds, Anamorphs, or Imperfect Fungi     500 (estimate)
Endophytic Fungi     500 (A.E. Arnold, pers. comm.)
Arbuscular Mycorrhizal Fungi, Rust,
and Smuts
    500 (estimate)
  TOTAL 3950


Please help us make a contribution to the science of mycology in Arizona.

Send your specimens today!

Arizona Mycota Project
c/o S.T. Bates
CIRES Visiting Fellow
University of Colorado at Boulder
Rm. 318 - CIRES Bldg.
Boulder, CO 80309

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Chlorophyllum molybdites (Green Spored Parasol), commonly found growing on urban lawns, can cause severe gastric upset if eaten.
(image by R.B.Olinsky).

Amanita muscaria var. flavivolvata (Fly Agaric) is another poisonous species frequently encountered in the forest.  It is often implicated in poisoning cases.
(image by S.T. Bates)


Mushroom enthusiast Darvin DeShazer holding the colorful and edible Laetiporus conifericola (Sulfur Self).
(image by S.T. Bates)


The bright yellow gills of Amanita caesarea (Caesar's Amanita).  This genus also contains several deadly poisonous species.
(image by J. Hardison)


A 'choice edible' - the morel (species in the genus Morchella) is often the object of the mycophagist's desire.
(image by S.T. Bates)


Although not often considered 'choice', Coprinus comatus (Shaggy Mane) is a favorite edible for many.
(image by J. Warnecke)