• Proposed
  • Under Assessment
  • Preliminary Assessed
  • VUAssessed
  • Published

Geoglossum atropurpureum (Batsch) Pers.

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Scientific name
Geoglossum atropurpureum
(Batsch) Pers.
Common names
Dark-purple Earthtongue
purpurfarvet jordtunge
Schwarzrote Blasssporerdzunge
Purperbruine aardtong
purpurbrun jordtunge
Schwarzrote Erdzunge
IUCN Specialist Group
Cup-fungi, Truffles and Allies
Assessment status
Proposed by
John Bjarne Jordal
John Bjarne Jordal
Comments etc.
Anders Dahlberg, Viktor Kučera, Eugene Popov, Irja Saar

Assessment Notes

R-L categories correct, but text here does not match final assessment. Developed and updated version published at IUCN´s Red List update, July 18th 2019.


In Europe Microglossum atropurpureum is a species of mainly seminatural grassland, mostly in the lowlands. These habitats are declining due to changing agricultural practices, development projects, mining and pollution (nitrogen deposition). In N America the species mainly grow in forests, here we assume a habitat decline of about 10-20% over 50 years. GBIF lists about 1500 occurrences (under two names) of which about 100 in N America. In Europe we assume a total habitat loss of 30-50% over the last 50 years (approximately three generations: one generation is assumed to be about 17 years). Habitat quality has also become impaired and the decline in population size over this time could be even higher, strengthening an assumption of probably near 50%. This decline in habitat and populations is ongoing and expected to continue over the next 50 years. The species is assumed to have a population of more than 20000 mature individuals. In Europe, the population decline is assumed to be 30%-50% in 50 years (past, present and future). At a global scale (i.e. Europe + N America) the decline is also assumed to be above 30% taken into account the much smaller population reported i N America (GBIF 2019). The species meets the threshold for VU (A2c+3c+4c) both globally and for Europe.

Taxonomic notes

Index Fungorum (10.03.2019) lists Geoglossum atropurpureum (Batsch) Pers. as valid name, which is used in many countries (Geoglossum atropurpureum Cooke according to Ohenoja et al. 2010). Based on molecular data this is not a Geoglossum, it is not even in the new class Geoglossomycetes but in the Leotiomycetes (Ohenoja et al. 2010, Schoch et al. 2009, Hustad et al. 2013). The proper generic name still remains unclear (Thuemenidium atropurpureum (Pers.) Kuntze, or Microglossum atropurpureum (Pers.) Sacc.; Ohenoja et al. 2010, Hustad et al. 2013), but Microglossum is used here. The taxonomic status of GBIF occurences in N America is uncertain but accepted here for the time being. Provisionally, a few occurrences from Japan and New Zealand are regarded as a probably related species.

Why suggested for a Global Red List Assessment?

This is in Europe mainly a species of (mostly calcareous) semi-natural grasslands, habitats which are strongly declining due to changing agricultural practices, development projects, mining and airial nitrogen deposition. In N America the species also occurs in forests. There are also some occurrences in European calcareous forests which are declining due to forest activities and development projects. On a global scale the main population seems to be in grasslands. It is redlisted in most European countries where it occurs.

Geographic range

The species is known from Europe and N America. In Europe it occurs in many countries in the lowlands and rarely up to subalpine areas. The main distribution in Europe is in the northwestern, coastal areas. The eastern limit is uncertain due to lack of data. In Scandinavia the species is found most often in the southern parts of Norway and Sweden, up to southern to middle boreal vegetation zone, and rarely in the northern boreal zone. The species is mentioned from N America (e.g. Grund & Harrison 1967, GBIF 2019), Japan (Imai 1941, GBIF 2019) and New Zealand (GBIF 2019). There is need of molecular methods to confirm these data. Meanwhile we accept the occurrence in N America, but regard the eastern occurrences as probably related species, like the situation in other earth tongues (see e.g. Hustad et al. 2013).

Population and Trends

According to GBIF (2019) there are >1000 occurrences from Europe and <100 fron N America. Based on available information on trends in seminatural grasslands, Griffith et al. (2013) estimated a habitat loss of 90% over the last 75 years for the CHEG-fungi (grassland fungi of Clavariaceae, Hygrocybe s.l., Entoloma and Geoglossaceae) as a whole in Western Europe. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the area of grasslands in the EU declined by 12.8% over 13 years (1990-2003). Also other sources point to a habitat loss in seminatural grasslands of roughly 1% per year in Europe over a longer time, although the data quality is not always very good. The habitat quality of seminatural grasslands is also declining, strengthening the population decline. More than 75% of the grasslands habitats are in an unfavourable conservation status (

http://ec.europa.eu/environment/nature/knowledge/rep_habitats/index_en.htm#csa). This trend is ongoing and expected to continue in the future.A smaller amount of the populations occur in calcareous forests with a lower decline in the same period, maybe 15-20%. There is a similar situation in N America where the species occurs in forests. The trend in N America is uncertain due to lack of data, but forest habitat decline over 50 years could be in the interval 10-20%. The habitat loss in Europe is probably 30-50% in grasslands, and >30% in the total population. Over the whole distribution range (taken into account the part of the population in forest) we assume a total habitat loss and population decline of 30%-50% over the last 50 years. This trend is ongoing and expected to continue in the future.

Population Trend: Decreasing

Habitat and Ecology

The major population of Microglossum atropurpureum grows in mycologically rich but nutrient-poor semi-natural grasslands, often (but not always) on calcareous soil. Semi-natural grasslands are rapidly disappearing due to changes in land use (see Threats and Polulation and trends). In Norway, most localities of the species are in semi-natural grasslands and rather few in rich/calcareous forests (N=235: 83,0% semi-natural grasslands, 10,2% rich forests, and the rest mainly in related grassland types like unmanured parks and lawns; Jordal et al. 2016), and similar patterns are found in other countries. The nutrient strategy is unknown but it could have some kind of biotrophy or mycorrhiza, like waxcaps (Nitare 1988).

Temperate ForestTemperate Grassland


Habitat destruction and abandoning are the main threats to seminatural grasslands including the calcareous ones. The most important process is probably withgrowing due to ceased grazing/mowing of old seminatural grasslands as part of intensification of agriculture. Further modern cultivation methods like use of fertilizers, pesticides and plowing. Also some places changed land use with the construction of roads, industrial areas, settlements etc. Decline is expected to continue, as at least the areas of seminatural grasslands are of little economic importance in modern agriculture. Most CHEG grasslands (see Population and trends) are among types redlisted as VU, EN or CR in the EU red list of habitats (Jansen et al. 2016). Calcareous forests are also subject to decline at least in Europe

Housing & urban areasCommercial & industrial areasShifting agricultureRoads & railroads

Conservation Actions

The habitats should be protected against destruction due to intensification of agriculture or development plans. The maintaining of seminatural grasslands demands yearly grazing or mowing. If grazing by heavy animals destroys part of the soil, light animals like sheep should be recommended. Habitat conservation by governmental support to traditional agricultural practices is most important, this exists in many countries to maintain extensive areas of agricultural areas, and should be extended to larger areas than today. Category II protected species in Estonia. Proposed as priority species in Norway (Jordal 2013).

Site/area protectionResource & habitat protectionAwareness & communicationsConservation payments

Research needed

Further ecological research is needed to clarify the nutrient strategy of grassland earth tongues. Management plans are needed. Habitat trends should be monitored.

Population size, distribution & trendsLife history & ecologyArea-based Management PlanHabitat trends

Use and Trade

The species is not known to be used.


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Artdatabanken Sweden 2019. Artfakta Microglossum atropurpureum. http://artfakta.artdatabanken.se/taxon/701
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Imai, S., 1941. Geoglossaceae Japoniae. Jour. Fac. Agr. Hokkaido Imp. Univ. 45:155-264.
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Known distribution - countries

Regional Population and Trends

Country Trend Redlisted