• Proposed
  • 2Under Assessment
  • 3Preliminary Assessed
  • 4Assessed
  • 5Published

Balsamia nigrans Harkn.

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Scientific name
Balsamia nigrans
Common names
IUCN Specialist Group
Cup-fungi, Truffles and Allies
Assessment status
Proposed by
Noah Siegel
Comments etc.
Noah Siegel

Assessment Notes

Taxonomic notes

Originally described as Balsamia nigrens from a collection made in Placer County, California, USA (Harkness 1889); this was later changed to B. nigrans to make it grammatically correct.

Balsamia nigrescens Harkn.  Pseudobalsamia nigrans (Harkn.) Gilkey (as Ps. nigrens) Pseudobalsamia nigrescens (Harkn.) Gilkey and Pseudobalsamia magnata var. nigrans (Harkn.) Gilkey are synonyms

Why suggested for a Global Red List Assessment?

Balsamia nigrans is a small hypogeous fungus with a coarsely warted black exterior and a firm, solid whitish gleba, marbled with white veins. A rare species, or at least rarely reported; it is currently known from 23 collections from 17 disjunct populations from southern California, north through the Sierra Nevada foothills, into the Klamath Mountains in Oregon.

Geographic range

Occurring in disjunct populations; a single site in the mountains in Los Angeles County, California, USA;  from low to mid elevations in the south-central to north-central Sierra Nevada in California; a single site in the Klamath Mountains in California; and scattered sites in the Klamath and Coast Range in Oregon.

Population and Trends

Currently known from 23 collections, from 17 locations, (Southworth, et all. 2018). Seven collections are older than 30 years; revisits to some historic locations were successful in relocating this species. Population and trend of this species is hard to assess, as limited surveying has been done to locate populations in much of its range. In addition, the cryptic nature (hypogeous fruiting, dark colors), and growth in areas with sporadic rainfall and limited mycological work (Sierra Nevada Foothills), have likely lead to under reporting of this species.

Population Trend:

Habitat and Ecology

Hypogeous, solitary, scattered, or sometimes clustered, buried in duff or soil. Presumed to be ectomycorrhizal, associated with Pinaceae; especially Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) and Jeffrey Pine (Pinus jeffreyi). Most collections come from low to mid-elevations, with one site in the southern Sierra, made in high elevation Red Fir (Abies magnifica) forest. It has also been found under oak (Quercus spp.)

This species is dependent on mycophagy (primarily eaten by small mammals) for spore dispersal.


Loss of habitat due to development and urban sprawl in the Sierra Nevada foothills.

Conservation Actions

Research needed

Additional surveys for this species in suitable habitat in locations between disjunct populations, to see if the range is more continuous than currently known.

Use and Trade

None known.


Castellano, M., Smith, J.E., O’Dell, T., Cázares, E. and Nugent, S. 1999. Handbook to Strategy 1 Fungal Species in the Northwest Forest Plan. General Technical Report PNW-GTR-476. United States Department of Agriculture.

Gilkey, H.M. 1954. Tuberales. North American Flora 2(1): 1–36.

Harkness, H.W. 1899. Californian hypogaeous fungi. Proceedings of the California Academy of Sciences. 1(8):241–291.

Siegel, N., Vellinga, E.C., Schwarz, C., Castellano, M.A. and Ikeda, D. 2019. A Field Guide to the Rare Fungi of California’s National Forests. Bookmobile: Minneapolis, MN. 313 p.

Southworth, D., Frank, J.L., Castellano, M.A., Smith, M.E. and Trappe, J.M. 2018. Balsamia (Sequestrate Helvellaceae, Ascomycota) in western North America. Fungal Systematics and Evolution 2: 11-16.

Country occurrence

Regional Population and Trends

Country Trend Redlisted