Currently one of the commonest hypogeous fungi, but with evidence of susceptibility to changed forest practices and pollution.
ASIA: China (Fukien), Japan, Taiwan, Tibet. EUROPE: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Norway, Poland, Romania, Russia (Leningradskaya oblast, Smolensk), Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, UK, Ukraine, former Yugoslavia. NORTH AMERICA: Canada (Alberta, British Columbia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Québec), Mexico, USA (Alaska, Arizona, California, Connecticut, DC, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Washington, West Virginia). SOUTH AMERICA: Chile (possibly introduced). Altitude: generally a species of lowlands or low mountain sites, but with records up to 1800 m.
Because trained dogs can find hypogeous fungi more easily than humans, estimates of abundance of all hypogeous species tend to be higher in Mediterranean countries where there is a tradition of using such animals. Elaphomyces granulatus has been described as common in Europe by MONTECCHI & SARASINI (2000), frequent by ŁAWRYNOWICZ (2006), widespread in Switzerland (AYER & EGLI, 1991), and abundant and widespread in Germany. Although it is not rare in Britain, it was one of a number of fungi considered during environmental assessments for one road enlargement project in Scotland (MINTER, 2007). It has, however, been described as rare in Japan (IWABUCHI, SAKAI & YAMAGUCHI, 1994), and listed as rare in Bulgaria (GYOSHEVA, FAKIROVA & DENCHEV, 2000) and as near-threatened in the Netherlands. The most recent record occurrence of it in Ukraine may be from before 1961. It has been described as one of the most common North American truffles (NORTH & GREENBERG, 1998), and as perhaps the most common hypogeous fungus in North America (STATES & GAUD, 1997). Its status in Chile is not clear: it may be an introduction. Population levels can be deleteriously affected by unsympathetic forest management, and old-growth woodlands where the species is most abundant are now in many places very reduced in extent (NORTH, TRAPPE & FRANKLIN, 1997; NORTH & GREENBERG, 1998). The species is sensitive to disturbance and its populations in northern Alberta (DANIELSON, 1983) may be adversely affected by surface mining to recover bitumen from oil-bearing sands. There are therefore significant threats. The species has been red-listed as rare in Bulgaria. Using IUCN Categories and criteria, MINTER (2007) evaluated the conservation status of this species globally as Vulnerable.
Population Trend: Uncertain
Hypogeous fungi make an important contribution to the dynamics of woodland and forest soils, through their mutualism with mammals resulting in digging and aeration: a disturbed forest soil surface is often indicative of the presence of Elaphomyces. Species of Elaphomyces typically occur at the interface between the organic soil above and the mineral soil below. Some, including the present species, may also be mycorrhizal (BARROETAVEÑA, RAJCHENBERG & CÁZARES, 2005) thereby playing an important rôle in forest health: in Taiwan, inoculum of a suspension of E. granulatus ascospores formed a readily identifiable mycorrhiza and stimulated seedling growth of Pinus taiwanensis (HU, 1993). There are European records of this species associated with high densities of fine roots in soils of acidity varying from pH 4•0 to pH5•5, buried 3–10 cm deep, typically at the interface between the organic and mineral soil horizons, or directly beneath leaf or conifer needle litter if there is no other significant organic horizon. The species has sometimes been found on a clay pan, but there are also records from loose sandy acid soil. In the northern hemisphere, this species has been observed in every month of the year. In Europe and North America, E. granulatus is found in plantations as well as natural or semi-natural forests, with a preference for riparian rather than upland sites (MEYER & NORTH, 2005).
Laboratory and field studies have shown that spore dispersal of E. granulatus and other hypogeous fungi in small mammal faeces may be important, particularly in colonization of new habitats (for example produced by retreating glaciers as a result of climate change), and recolonization of destroyed habitats (for example burnt areas) by their associated trees. Food ingested by these mammals immediately prior to hibernation may not be excreted immediately, thereby perhaps lengthening the period of spore viability (CORK & KENAGY, 1989a; CÁZARES & TRAPPE, 1994). Passage through the digestive tract of Glaucomys sabrinus, the northern flying squirrel, may enhance germination and inoculum potential of E. granulatus ascospores (CALDWELL, VERNES & BÄRLOCHER, 2005). The olfactory basis of Sciurus niger L. foraging for E. granulatus has been studied (SECREST, 1990). Techniques for analysing E. granulatus and other hypogeous species in the diets of small mammals have been described by COLGAN III, CAREY & TRAPPE (1997).
Associated plants: Abies amabilis; A. excelsa; A. mariesii; A. pectinata; A. procera; Abies sp.; Arctostaphylos uva-ursi; Betula lutea; B. pendula; Betula sp.; Calluna vulgaris; Castanea sativa; Eucalyptus sp.; Fagus grandifolia; F. sylvatica; Fagus sp.; Juniperus sp.; Larix decidua; L. × eurolepis; Monotropastrum humile; Nothofagus sp.; Picea abies; P. rubens; P. rubra; P. sitchensis; Picea sp.; Pinus albicaulis; P. banksiana; P. contorta; P. echinata; P. pentaphylla; P. pinaster; P. ponderosa; P. sylvestris; P. taeda; P. taiwanensis; Pinus sp.; Poaceae gen.indet.; Polytrichum commune; Pseudotsuga menziesii; Pteridium aquilinum; Quercus petraea; Q. robur (root); Quercus rubra; Quercus sp.; Salix herbacea; Tsuga diversifolia; T. heterophylla; T. mertensiana. Other associated organisms: Cenococcum graniforme; Cervidae (eating ascomata); Cordyceps capitata (parasitizing ascomata, = Elaphocordyceps capitata); C. ophioglossoides (parasitizing ascomata, = Elaphocordyceps ophioglossoides); C. parasitica (parasitizing ascomata); Glaucomys sabrinus (eating ascomata); Musci gen.indet.; Oryctolagus cuniculus (exposing ascomata); Peromyscus maniculatus (eating ascomata); Sciurus nigra (eating ascomata); S. vulgaris (eating ascomata); Spermophilus saturatus (eating ascomata); Sus scrofa (digging for and eating ascomata); Tamiasciurus hudsonicus (caching ascomata in nest of Turdus migratorius). Other substrata: peat; soil.
A study, in Pseudotsuga menziesii forests in Oregon, USA, reported that this species was one of 5 accounting for 73% of total biomass production of hypogeous fungi, and that production was higher in spring and highest in mesic old-growth forest (LUOMA, FRENKEL & TRAPPE, 1991). Commercial thinning operations in Pseudotsuga menziesii forests of Oregon, USA, have been shown to decrease numbers of fruitbodies of Elaphomyces, although these effects were not so severe where coarse woody debris was retained on site after thinning (GÓMEZ, ANTHONY & TRAPPE, 2003). In Tsuga heterophylla and Pseudotsuga menziesii forests of Washington, USA it is significantly associated with thick organic layers with a high density of fine roots, typically between 1 and 2 m from the associated trunk, comprising 90% of the total truffle biomass in unmanaged and mature old-growth stands, but being rare in managed and young stands where the organic soil layer and fine root density have been significantly reduced with the introduction of fire (NORTH, TRAPPE & FRANKLIN, 1997; NORTH & GREENBERG, 1998). These authors considered that slash burning and scarification practices could have a strong effect on local food abundance and availability for small mammal consumers. Some of the small mammal species for which E. granulatus is an important food source, such as Glaucomys sabrinus, are endangered (LOEB, TAINTER & CÁZERES, 2000). More than 50% of 115 sampled individuals of the endangered West Virginia northern flying squirrel (G. sabrinus fuscus) consumed this species in autumn, and more than 48% in spring (MITCHELL, 2001). The nutritional value of E. granulatus may, however, be limited for some small mammals: much of the nitrogen and carbohydrate in fruitbodies was found to be unavailable to one species of mycophagous ground squirrel (CORK & KENAGY, 1989b).
There is some evidence that species of Elaphomyces contribute to heavy metal uptake in mammals which eat their fruitbodies (POKORNY, AL-SAYEGH PETKOVSEK, RIBARIC LASNIK, VRTACNIK, DOGANOC & ADAMIC, 2004). Studies in Germany in 2003 on the impact of Chernobyl radiation pollution (PUTYRSKAYA, KLEMT, PALIACHENKA & ZIBOLD, 2003) have shown that, because they grow in the soil level where most radioactive pollution accumulates and, perhaps, because of their persistence, ascomata of E. granulatus contain significantly more radioactive caesium (137Cs) than basidiomata of forest mushrooms. FIELITZ (2002) reported that soil to organism transfer this pollution was 10–100 times greater for this species than for any other fungus or plant studied. In an internet-source report, a sample of 82 fruitbodies, the mean level of radiation was 25,660 Bq/kg compared with 6,750 Bq/kg for Cortinarius hercynicus (Pers.) M.M. Moser, the species with next highest level. Distribution of radiation in ascomata has been studied, and results indicate that highest levels are found in the rind (cortex and peridium). Ascomata have been found in significantly higher proportions in stomach contents of highly-contaminated than in low-contaminated wild boar (Sus scrofa) (HUHMANN & HUCKSCHLAG, 2005), and this may explain continuing high radiation levels in this species, which commonly digs for and eats these fungi (FIELITZ, 2002). There are similar reports of accumulation of 137Cs pollution by this species in Switzerland (VÖLKLE, AYER, JUNGCK, VANZETTI & EGLI, undated).
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See also the following internet pages:
http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elaphomyces_granulatus (review of post Chernobyl radiocaesium uptake by Elaphomyces granulatus, and its impact);
http://funghi45.altervista.org/funghi_odore.htm (identification based on scents);
http://perso.orange.fr/champignons.fc/odeurs/cleascos.htm (identification key based on scents);
http://wildwoodsurvival.com/survival/food/fungi/300fungi.html (consumption as human food);
http://188.8.131.52/scholar?hl=en&lr;=&q=cache:DvSBAenIP74J:www.bag.admin.ch/strahlen/ionisant/radio_env/pdf-2003/Chap-5-2.pdf+“Elaphomyces+granulatus” (uptake of 137Cs radioactive pollution in Switzerland);
http://www.aranzadi-zientziak.org/fileadmin/docs/micologia/salidas/0703_Bilketak.doc (occurrence in association with Eucalyptus);
http://www.asturnatura.com/articulos/revista/catalogohongosast.pdf (occurrence in Spain);
http://www.cybertruffle.org.uk/redlists/red_1960.htm (most recent record from Ukraine);
http://www.environmental-studies.de/Radioecology/Radiocesium/Cs_E5/Truffle/DT1.html (commercial study of post Chernobyl radiocaesium uptake by Elaphomyces granulatus, and its impact);
http://www.fao.org/docrep/007/y5489e/y5489e14.htm (listing as medicinal by FAO);
http://www.gljive.com/aktivnosti/nase_aktivnosti/dani_gljiva_2006_-_izvještaj/ (occurrence in Serbia);
http://www.indianamushrooms.com/cordyceps_capitata.html (occurrence in Indiana, USA);
http://www.patentstorm.us/patents/7000348-description.html (involvement in patent application);
http://www.soortenbank.nl/soorten.php?soortengroep=paddenstoelen&id=144&menuentry=soorten (red listing in the Netherlands);
http://www.transportscotland.gov.uk/uploads\documents\A9_Crubenmore_Northern_Extension_volume2.pdf (inclusion in environmental assessment for road-building project);
http://www.wpamushroomclub.org/photos_files/gallery9.htm (occurrence in Pennsylvania, USA);
http://www.wsl.ch/eccf/Bulgaria.pdf (red listing in Bulgaria).