Fresh Blood for Cordyceps

Any concerns I had about the purity of the cordyceps clone have been resolved after watching the strain run out on sterilized rye.  To recap, the jar of rye was completely colonized from one agar wedge after 4 days, no shaking necessary.  This strain seems to propogate like a mold, but more like chicken mushroom, creating satellite colonies wherever a tiny strand of aerial mycelium has landed.  This is a unique biological advantage for the fungus.  If you’ve seen Planet Earth’s jungles episode, you may remember that the bullet ants carry the corpses of their cordyceps-infected brethren (sistren?) far away, where they then perform hari-kari to protect their hive from an attack of pandemic proportions.  For the complete backstory, see the previous blog post.

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Beyond speedy colonization, this strain has another interesting ability.  It can form at least the beginning of the actual mushroom “fruitbody” simply from rye grain.  As far as I know, this hasn’t been achieved with cordyceps species.  They require either insects or a carefully balanced slurry of agar, minerals, and organic compounds in order to produce the spore-producing mushrooms.

Aloha Medicinals is helping us out with a genetic test, and we should hear back in a few weeks I hope.  My guess at the moment is that it is closely related to, but unique from the well-known species C. militaris.  The fact that it was cloned from carpenter bee, colonizes rapidly in a mold-like fashion and can produce primordia on grain suggests that there’s something different going on than militaris, though the orange-color of older mycelium is a trait it shares with this species.

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Got a bagful of 17-year cicadas from my nephew, Dustin (these bugs are older than him) which I sterilized and fed to a healthy wedge of cordyceps mycelium.  The wedge had been refrigerated, so it took a day to rebound and show growth, but by day three, this is what it looks like.

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Hopefully we’ll get some nice healthy fruits so we can check it out under the microscope and capture spores for further research.

Oh BTW, summer mushrooms are out in force.  We’ve taken a few pounds chanterelles around to chefs at White Dog and Parc, restaurants that are excited to use the unique flavors of wild mushrooms in their dishes.  Delicious.

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