Pig’s ear (Gomphus clavatus)

KingdomFungi
PhylumBasidiomycota
ClassBasidiomycetes
OrderGomphales
FamilyGomphaceae
GenusGomphus (1)
SizeFruiting body diameter: up to 6 cm (2)
Fruiting body height: up to 10 cm (2)

The pig’s ear fungus has been short-listed for inclusion in the Bern Convention by the European Council for Conservation of Fungi (ECCF), and included on the Red Lists of 17 European countries (3).

Pig's ear fungus (Gomphus clavatus) derives its name from the funnel-shaped and folded fruiting body, which resembles a pig’s ear in shape and texture. The cap is depressed and has a wavy margin; it is violet, fading to yellowish-brown over time (4). The stem (or ‘stipe’) is short and thick (2).

WARNING: many species of fungus are poisonous or contain chemicals that can cause sickness. Never pick and eat any species of fungus that you cannot positively recognise or are unsure about. Some species are deadly poisonous and can cause death within a few hours if swallowed.

Pig’s ear fungus is rare in Europe and its population is declining at a particularly alarming rate in central Europe. This species is also found in Asia and North America (5).

Pig’s ear fungus is found in sub-alpine and montane areas where there are mature forests composed of fir (Abies spp.), spruce (Picea spp.) or beech (Fagus spp.) (5).

Fungi are an enormous group of organisms that are so distinctive from both plants and animals that they are placed in their own kingdom. The main body of the fungus is composed of a multitude of microscopic threads (known as ‘hyphae’) which are located within the substrate (4). The fruiting body (such as the more familiar mushroom or toadstool) is produced to release spores and thus allows reproduction to occur. Fungi feed by absorbing nutrients from their surroundings.

Pig’s ear fungus forms a mycorrhizal relationship with coniferous trees such as fir and spruce and with beech trees (5). The hyphae of the fungus are closely associated with the roots of the tree and both species appear to gain from this relationship (4). The lobed fruiting bodies are produced between August and November (5).

Pig’s ear fungus is under threat from the disturbance of its habitat; the acidification and eutrophication of forest soils pose particular threats to survival (5).

A reduction in air pollution would help to lessen the threats currently faced pig’s ear fungi. It is also recommended that the range and population of pig’s ear is researched and mapped (5). This species is a candidate for listing in Appendix I of the Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats, otherwise known as the Bern Convention (3).

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:
arkive@wildscreen.org.uk

  1. ITIS, the Integrated Taxonomic Information System (September, 2009)
    http://www.itis.gov
  2. Courtecuisse, R. (1999) Collins Guide to the Mushrooms of Britain and Europe. Harper Collins, London.
  3. Dahlberg, A. and Croneborg, H. (2003) Thirty-three Threatened Fungi in Europe. Complementary and Revised Information on Candidates for Listing in Appendix I of the Bern Convention. Swedish Species Information Centre, Uppsala, Sweden. Available at:
    http://www.artdata.slu.se/Bern_Fungi/Bern_Fungi.htm
  4. Pegler, D. and Spooner, B. (1992) The Mushroom Identifier. Apple Press, London.
  5. European Council for Conservation of Fungi. (2001) Convention on the conservation of European wildlife and natural habitats - 21th meeting of the Standing Committee - Strasbourg, 26-30 November 2001 – 33. Threatened fungi in Europe : complementary and revised information on candidates for listing in Appendice I of the Bern Convention (August 2003) – Datasheets. Council of Europe, Paris and Brussels. Available at:
    http://www.coe.int/t/dg4/cultureheritage/nature/WCD/Champignons_en.asp#