Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Engleromyces goetzei - a grotesque member of the Xylariaceae

During a holiday in Uganda July 2011 I encountered (at a distance) one of my most desired fungi: Engleromyces goetzei described by Hennings (1900) from "Nyassa, Africa orientalis" on "culmus emortuos Bambusae". This locality must have been somewhere along lake Nyasa in the southern part of the Great Rift Valley. My sighting was in the same valley but in the mountains near the north west corner of lake Victoria within Uganda but close to the Rwanda border. Despite the original diagnosis refers to a dead bamboo culm, the Ugandan fungus clearly grew on a still living, fairly thick bamboo culm (appr. 5-6 cm diam.). The overall morphology of the fungus does not suggest a placement within the Xylariaceae, but the microscopical characters are rather compelling. I am not aware of any genuine molecular placement of the fungus. Recently a second species of the genus has been described from China, also on bamboo, but apparently a somewhat smaller object (Whalley et al. 2010 - in Mycotaxon).
Lloyd (1917) stated that E.g. is the largest pyrenomycete and that there are several specimens on exhibition in the museum at Berlin. He also wrote "some years later (1906) a specimen reached Paris from the same region. It was sent to the arthropological museum at Paris, the collector taking if for a fossilized skull" and goes on "Patouillard, not knowing of course what Hennings had done at Berlin, renamed it Collemantanginia paradoxa. Practically nothing is known as to its habits. Patouillard states it occurs on the trunk of Abies, Hennings on bamboo".

The fleshy stromata, up to more than 30 cm in diam., contains perithecia in several layers (polystichous) and the spores are likened to those of a Xylaria (dark brown, asymmetrical with one side flattened and somewhat pointy (citriform)). The apical apparatus within the asci stains blue in iodine reagents as in most members of the Xylariaceae. The pictures are taken by one of of my fellow travellers Peter Bundgaard using a long tele lens.

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