Thursday, December 22, 2005

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If you were to do a search of the internet for Cordyceps, you would discover that the majority of your ‘hits’ would be for sites that sold health supplements. In the Far East (and especially China) Cordyceps has been sought after as a medicinal herb for a millennium or more. The West has only recently ‘discovered’ it, but there has been a strong and growing interest. Cordyceps is promoted as an anti-oxidant, anti-viral and anti-tumor supplement which strengthens the immune system and improves a number of bodily functions. C. sinensis, a Tibetan species, is the most common one on the market and typically sells for about $10.00 a gram.

There are four species of Cordyceps that have been collected in British Columbia and probably occur in Alaska, as well. C. capitata and C. ophioglossoides parasitize the fungus Elaphomyces (the false truffle). Elaphomyces are fairly com-throughout northwestern North America in both conifers and hardwoods. C. militaris parasitizes butterflies and moths (usually in their pupal or larval stages). C. myrmecophila is an interesting species that parasitizes mummified ants. These are the spent ants that have died and been removed from the colony by their fellow workers who bury them about the perimeter of their nest area.

Now that I know something of the habit of these Cordyceps species, I hope to devote some time to seeking them out next summer. With a little patience (and a lot of luck) I might just find some, but don’t expect me to eat any of them!

-- S. Scott --


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