Assessed as NT under the criterion D1
Wynnea sparassoides Pfister, Mycologia 71(1): 153 (1979)
This mushroom if very distinct from W. americana in that it looks more like a Sparassis on a stalk, and therefore has very tight, capitate series of circular apothecia instead of a series of emergent, Otidea-like “ears.” Sequences on both of these Wynnea species has yielded a 94% difference between W. sparassoides and W. americana.
This a fairly large ascomycete with an unmistakable appearance, that has a long tapering pseudorhiza arising from a sclerotium. Not unlike its cousin, the “moose antlers,” (Wynnea americana), this species only occurs sporadically and has an irregular occurrence. Unlike W. americana, it has only been collected a very few times, in spite of a great number of amateur and professional mycologists who have searched the very same areas where they have been found.
MycoBank records include the type, which was collected by Mrs. Mary Plant on September 15, 1972 in Woodland Park, Darien, Connecticut, who brought it to Dr. Sam Ristich, who forwarded it Dr. Donald Pfister at the Farlow Herbarium (HUH). Don received a second specimen from Stephens State Park north of Hackettstown, NJ in 1977 and then published it in Mycologia in 1979. It was then collected on July 12, 1981 50 miles west of Baltimore, Maryland on a high ridge in rich loamy soil associated with oaks, chestnut, and maple. In 1986, a single collection came in during a foray in mixed woods in East Liverpool, OH that was identified by Walt Sturgeon. It was then collected in New Jersey in 1992 with no specifics on the collection. The last time it was collected was on the 25th of September, 1999, in New Switzerland, Yancy County, North Carolina at Black Mountain Campground. Since then, two observations have shown up via Mushroom Observer: one in North Carolina in 2009 near Lake Lure (Painters Gap) by Debbie Viess and one from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (2010) from John Plischke III.
The extant population of this species appears to restricted to isolated locales. Beug, Bessette & Bessette list it as “rare.” It is estimated that there are no more than two or three genotypes per site and no more than 1500 mature fruiting individuals in the total population. The fact that this species was not recorded until 1972 and only a few observations have occurred since that time, it is likely that this species is near threatened.
Population Trend: Uncertain
Beug & Bessettes list as “solitary on soil under leaf litter, summer and fall.” The holotype was listed as “under leaf litter” and “a terrum.” Some of the more recent collections were reported from mixed hemlock-beech-oak-maple woods (1986), and “under oak” (2010). Specifics on sub-habitat preferences or niche requirements are unknown.
There are no known threats since the exact ecology of this species is unknown.
A number of research parameters are suggested by the rarity of this organism, including having a better understanding of its exact habitat preference, the potential for interaction between the sclerotial material and predators, and the apparent episodic occurrence of the fruiting individuals.
There is also a need to promote information generation about this species among regional mushroom clubs in order to promote the discovery of more individuals that can add to this poorly understood (and sequenced) species.
Pfister, Mycologia 71(1): 153 (1979)
Beug, Bessette, and Bessette. 2014. Ascomycete Fungi of North America. Austin: Univ. of Texas Press.