Lobster mushrooms are actually mushrooms infected with another type of fungus. The host mushroom, typically a Russula or Lactarius, is transformed by this infection into a tasty treat with bold red color. Mild tasting, with a nutty flavor, good grilled, in stir frys or soups. Melt 3 tablespoons of the butter in a medium-size 8-inch heavy nonstick or cast-iron skillet over medium heat until it begins to foam.

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A Lactarius or R ussula fruiting body fully parasitized by Hypomyces lactifluorum. This union creates the sought-after lobster mushroom. Photo by Herbert Baker. Hypomyces lactifluorum is an unmistakable, sought after mycological find I have yet to encounter this calendar year.

I have found other closely related Hypomyces species, but not the red-orange specimen commonly known as the lobster mushroom. Eventually it forms a red-orange crust all over its host, resembling a shell of a cooked lobster. Many of the mushrooms the parasite can infect are not pursued by mushroom hunters until they do in fact become infected by H.

It might sound farfetched but the mycotrophic parasite actually changes the chemical composition of its host, thereby altering its texture and flavor profile. Mushrooms from these Russula and Lactarius genera engage in ectomycorrhizal relationship with a diverse array of trees, including hardwoods and conifers.

By looking through mushroomobserver. Some mycologists believe that it only occurs in North America, and that other observations may be new species altogether. New Hypomyces are found every year, adding to the immense fungal kingdom we already have.

What I was most intrigued about was how this fungus shifts non-poisonous but not sought-after mushrooms into delectable, highly regarded forest floor treats.

Most professional foragers leave the Russula species they find behind, because of their lack of flavor and their fragile structure. But once infected by H. I wanted to know more about this, so I scoured the scientific literature, searching for articles describing the molecular transformation of its host mushroom. Close up of the Hypomyces lactifluorum covered margin. The tiny bumps are the outermost surface of the spore filled perithecia. In-between lies the parasites stroma. Photo by Darvin DeShazer.

These Canadian scientists focused their efforts on describing the metabolic transformation of Russula brevipes by Hypomyces lactifluorum. In their neck of the woods, along with the North-eastern United stated, the main host of the fungal parasite is Russula brevipes.

The molecular transformations are most likely different with each fungal host, so for simplicities sake, they just concentrated on Russula brevipes. The strongest part of their study was how they analyzed the host. Interestingly, they found the DNA of both species changes both spatially and temporally. Spatially, there was little DNA of R. With increased distance from the red-orange margin, more R. Though, this changed throughout the infection process, as DNA from R.

Spatial differences in host and parasite DNA within the infected fruiting body. Laperriere et al. Temporal differences in host vs. Lobster mushrooms are choice edibles because the parasite chemically alters the fungal tissue. Although the sliced fruiting body appears the same as R. The metabolomic analysis conducted be the researchers showed that after R. Additionally, the percentage of amino acids increased by a factor of 10! Chemically broken down like this, we get to see why the lobster mushrooms become choice edibles.

The may look like their host, but they certainly are not the same tissue, nor the same flavor. Changes in chemical composition before and after infection.

Lobster mushrooms represent a fascinating example of parasitism as well as food science. Forest floor parasites like H. It is by random chance that our own human taste buds are pleased by the way H. Not only are the chemicals altered in the fruiting body, but the spatial and temporal position of the DNA in the two species as well. Hopefully after reading this, you too will be looking for lobster in the woods, from both a scientific and culinary standpoint.

Your path towards ecological understanding.


Lobster Mushroom (Hypomyces lactifluorum): Identification & Info

A Lactarius or R ussula fruiting body fully parasitized by Hypomyces lactifluorum. This union creates the sought-after lobster mushroom. Photo by Herbert Baker. Hypomyces lactifluorum is an unmistakable, sought after mycological find I have yet to encounter this calendar year.


Your path towards ecological understanding

The Lobster mushroom , Hypomyces lactifluorum , contrary to its common name, is not a mushroom , but rather a parasitic ascomycete fungus that grows on certain species of mushrooms, turning them a reddish orange color that resembles the outer shell of a cooked lobster. At maturity, H. Lobster mushrooms are widely eaten and enjoyed fresh. While edible, field guides caution against eating this fungus as some of the host species it parasitizes are poisonous or toxic. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.


Lobster Mushrooms, Hypomyces lactifluorum – bulk by the ounce

Black Trumpet Craterellus cornucopioides, C. Small Chanterelles Craterellus tubaeformis, C. Hedgehog Hydnum repandum, H. Horse and Meadow Mushroom Agaricus arvensis, A campestris. Parasol Mushroom Macrolepiota procera. Shaggy Mane Coprinus comatus. White Matsutake Tricholoma magnivelare.


The "lobster mushroom" is actually a fungus that has parasitized a Russula or Lactarius mushroom. There's really no mistaking it: the fungus creates a beautiful, bright orange covering over the mushroom, the surface of which is rather hard, and dotted with tiny pimples. Eventually, the fungus even begins to transform the shape of the host mushroom, twisting it into odd contortions. Ecology: Parasitic on species of Russula and Lactarius. According to several authors Phillips, ; Lincoff, , only white species in these genera like Russula brevipes or Lactarius piperatus are attacked. Personal experience leads me to doubt this--but identifying the host is no easy task, and I have never put much effort into it.

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