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Truffle Species Discovered

A team of mycologists from Oregon State University, the USDA Forestry Sciences Laboratory and Michigan State University has discovered a new species of spiny-spored truffle in the United States.

Spores of Tuber luomae. Image credit: Joyce Eberhart.

Spores of Tuber luomae. Image credit: Joyce Eberhart.

Truffles are the fruiting bodies of subterranean ascomycete fungi, predominantly one of the many species of the genus Tuber.

Some truffle species are highly prized for culinary purposes because of their distinct flavor.

These species, which are black, white or brown, are hard to find and exist in limited geographic areas, meaning they command high prices.

The newly-discovered species, named Tuber luomae, is a red truffle, which doesn’t have the distinct flavor sought by chefs and cooks.

While the culinary use of truffles and the thrill of searching for them gets a lot of attention, they and other fungi are important for the health of forests.

They provide nutrients to plants and can also help plants withstand drought.

“The new species is named in honor of distinguished mycologist Dr. Dan Luoma, collector of the holotype, for his many contributions to mycology,” said lead author Dr. Joyce Eberhart, a truffle researcher in the Department of Crop and Soil Science at Oregon State University, and colleagues.

Tuber luomae. Image credit: Oregon State University.

Tuber luomae. Image credit: Oregon State University.

Tuber luomae can be found in Cascade Mountains of far southwest Oregon and north on its western slopes as well as at the eastern slope of the Coast Ranges, thence to Washington’s far north in the San Juan Islands.

“Many dozens of professional and amateur mycologists have sought truffles in western Oregon for over 100 years, but the Luoma’s truffle has been found only in four collections,” said Dr. James Trappe, a mycologist in the USDA Forestry Sciences Laboratory.

“Each of those seems to be quite local in distribution, indicating that it’s a very rare fungus.”

The discovery is described in a paper in the journal Fungal Systematics and Evolution.

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J. Eberhart et al. 2020. Tuber luomae, a new spiny-spored truffle species from the Pacific Northwest, USA. Fungal Systematics and Evolution 6: 299-304; doi: 10.3114/fuse.2020.06.15

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