Searching for Podaxis on the trails of early explorers in southern Africa

M. Buys, B. Conlon, Henrik H. De Fine Licht, D.K. Aanen, M. Poulsen, Z.W. de Beer

Research output: Contribution to journalAbstractAcademic


Podaxis pistillaris is the name often given to the torpedo-shaped mushrooms forming on termite mounds across southern Africa during the rainy season. Linnaeus described the species in 1871 based on a specimen from India. In 1881, he described a second species as Lycoperdon carcinomale from a South African specimen he received from Thunberg. In 1812, Burchell made a painting of the fungus during his exploration of southern Africa. In 1933, all 33 Podaxis species described by that time from Africa, Asia, Australia and the USA, were lumped as synonyms of P. pistillaris. Another 12 species were subsequently described, but most authors treated all these fungi as P. pistillaris. In a quest to resolve the taxonomy of the fungus, we studied Southern African specimens from various herbaria, and some specimens from the USA, Mexico, India, and Africa. We also visited the sites where Thunberg collected his specimen (Western Cape) and where Burchell made his painting (Northern Cape), but could not find fresh specimens. We distributed flyers to local communities in these areas and requested that they contact us should Podaxis be observed. Within six weeks we received specimens from a farm close to Burchell’s camp site, and more from the Northern and Eastern Cape. Ribosomal DNA sequences were successfully obtained from all the fresh and almost all herbarium specimens, including some older than 100 years. Phylogenetic analyses showed that the southern African specimens separate in at least five distinct species, some of which might represent novel taxa
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)317-317
JournalSouth African Journal of Botany
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2018
Event44th Annual Congress of the South African Association of Botanists held at the University of Pretoria - Pretoria, South Africa
Duration: 9 Jan 201812 Jan 2018


Dive into the research topics of 'Searching for Podaxis on the trails of early explorers in southern Africa'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this