A conspicuous and distinctive wood-inhabiting tooth fungus with a global distribution entirely dependent on the restricted range of Chamaecyparis thyoides, a swamp-inhabiting conifer found along the coast of the eastern USA.
Fruiting (reproduction) requires very old trees and, following some dedicated survey work, only ca. 20 occupied trees (estimated to comprise 40 ramets) are thought to exist. Although good estimates exist for the past decline of its associated tree in certain US states due to logging, this is not the case over its entire range. Furthermore this decline largely ceased with the declining need for shipbuilding timber. Therefore only Criterion D is appropriate. Allowing for the existence of as yet unrecorded occupied trees, this species is considered to have a small population of <250 individuals and is assessed globally and regionally for N. America as EN D
Described by Banker (1909) who, presciently doubting if this and Echinodontium tinctorium (generic type) were congeneric, assigned it to Steccherinum. It was recombined in Echinodontium by Gross (1964). However, DNA sequence data generated by Binder (reported in Shernoff 2007a) indicated that E. ballouii is closely related to E. ryvardenii. This, in turn, has been shown to be relatively distantly related to the type of the genus (Larsson & Larsson 2003) and so both species will require a new generic name in due course. However this has no bearing on the conservation status of these fungi.
Restricted to the range of Chamaecyparis thyoides Atlantic white cedar (although not a true cedar) along the east coast of the USA (http://esp.cr.usgs.gov/data/little/chamthyo.pdf). This conifer occurs in a narrow belt (usually within 150 miles of the coast) from Maine to Georgia on the Atlantic coast and from Florida to Mississippi on the Gulf of Mexico coast. There are two disjunct populations which have been recognised as distinct taxa at specific or infraspecific rank. In the fruiting state, the fungus is further restricted to the oldest stands of the tree and has, thus far, only been recorded in the northernmost (Atlantic coastal) population/taxon.
Three specimens collected in 1908 and 1909 by Ballou from the type locality: New Jersey, Ocean Co., Forked River and described by Banker (1909). Gross (1964) remarked that he had made several unsuccessful attempts to refind the fungus. Gilbertson & Ryvarden (1986) noted no further collections had been made and that it was possibly extinct. It was rediscovered by Lawrence Millman & William Neill in March 2006 at a Nature Conservancy site in Hillsborough County, New Hampshire, in three discrete areas several hundreds of metres apart, within ca. 150 hectares of surveyed swamp (L. Millman in litt). In late February/early March 2015, L. Millman (reported in email of 03Mar2015 to A.M. Ainsworth) “snowshoed extensively around the New Jersey Pine Barrens (three different locales) .........and discovered no fruitings of Echinodontium ballouii as well as no truly old Atlantic white cedars”. The objective of this search was to revisit sites not far from where the type specimen was discovered by Ballou in Ocean Co. NJ although Millman (pers.comm.) notes that “since that area has been extensively logged in the last hundred years, it’s unlikely that I’ll find new specimens”. Furthermore Millman goes on to say “I’ve investigated virtually all of the Atlantic White Cedar swamps in the Northeast, including one on Naushon Island, MA, which has some singularly old trees, and I’ve not found any evidence that E. ballouii exists beyond the single New Hampshire site”. Current number of known occupied trees 15-20 (Millman in litt.). Trends are probably best expressed in trends for its tree associate. Fide Shernoff (2007b), C. thyoides “was on the verge of extinction a hundred years ago” due to cutting for timber. Its extinction was considered “likely within a decade”. More recently however its timber has fallen out of favour and it has been re-established along the Atlantic coast. However on visiting one such site, Millman & Neill soon gave up the search as the swamp did not contain any suitable old growth (reported in Shernoff (2007b). Burke & Sheridan (2005) describe the tree as “globally threatened and coastally restricted”. New Jersey’s C. thyoides population has decreased 74% from its estimated historic area (from 47,000 ha down to 12,100 ha) (New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection 2003).
Population Trend: Uncertain
This species fruits on older trees (ca. 100 y fide Millman in Shernoff 2007) from positions consistent with being a heartrotter although it can also fruit on dead attached thin branches consistent with the mycelium spreading outwards from the trunk’s inner core. C. thyoides favours swampy sites hence the fungus is best surveyed early in the year when the ground is frozen.
Today’s acreage of C. thyoides is “only a small fraction of the original” largely due to logging, wildfires and drainage of peatlands for agriculture (Derby & Hinesley 2005 and refs therein). Millman (in litt.) states that the site he and Neill discovered is a Nature Conservancy site and thus preserved.
Site protection required for all the remaining populations of this fungus
Younger C. thyoides trees should be allowed to reach old age and die in situ to maximise the likelihood that E. ballouii will persist as an extant species and colonize new sites or recolonize its former sites
Any apparently suitable sites (with older C.thyoides populations) should be searched (early in the year when accessible) if not already surveyed by W. Neill & L. Millman. Reporting of unsuccessful as well as successful survey results is important for future survey planning.
Banker, H.J. (1909) Bull. Torrey bot. Club 36: 341-343
Burke, M. K. & Sheridan, P. eds. (2005) Atlantic white cedar: ecology, restoration, and management: Proceedings of the Arlington Echo symposium. Gen. Tech. Rep. SRS-91. Asheville, NC: U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service, Southern Research Station. 74 p. See more at: http://www.srs.fs.usda.gov/pubs/21900#sthash.tZYc9y27.dpuf
Derby, S.A. & Hinesley, L. E. (2005) Water table and temperature regime affect growth of potted Atlantic white cedar. In Burke, M. K. & Sheridan, P. eds. 2005. Atlantic white cedar: ecology, restoration, and management: Proceedings of the Arlington Echo symposium. Gen. Tech. Rep. SRS-91. Asheville, NC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Southern Research Station. pp.17-21
Gilbertson, R.L. & Ryvarden, L. (1986) North America Polypores. Fungiflora vol. 1: 253
Gross H.L. (1964) Mycopath. Mycol. appl. 24(1): 5
Larsson E. & Larsson K.-H. (2003). Mycologia 95(6): 1037-1065
New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. 2003. NJ Forest Service Atlantic white-cedar Initiative. Department of Parks
and Forestry. Website, http://www.state.nj.us/dep/parksandforests/forest/njfs_awc_initiative.html.
Millman L. (2013). In Search of an Extinct Polypore. In Giant Polypores & Stoned Reindeer. Komatik Press
Shernoff, L. (2007a) Echinodontium ballouii: from eyeballs to DNA. Mushroom: The Journal of Wild Mushrooming 97 (25/4): 30-42.
Shernoff, L. (2007b) A real American ivory-billed Woodpecker. Mushroom: The Journal of Wild Mushrooming 97 (25/4): 13-14, 19-25.