Public Description of Cordyceps militaris (L.) Fr.

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Name: Cordyceps militaris (L.) Fr.
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Description status: Unreviewed

Taxonomic Classification:

Domain: Eukarya
Kingdom: Fungi
Phylum: Ascomycota
Class: Sordariomycetes
Order: Hypocreales
Family: Clavicipitaceae

General Description:

Parasitic ascomycete that infects moth and butterfly pupae.

Orange club-like fungus, grows to be between 8-10cm tall and .5 cm wide (A). The tip of the fruiting body is finely dotted with bright orange-red perithecia. The fruiting body emerges from buried pupa or larva, protruding from between the segments of the insect exoskeleton. Either simple stalk or branched at the base. Cross-section reveals pale, hollowed interior ( C).

Very long asci, between 300-510 microns, about 4 microns wide.

The ascospores are thread-like, colorless, and segmented, about 3.5-6 × 1- 1.5 microns. These break into segments under nutrient-poor conditions, which then germinate to produce secondary conidia. (E)

Mating type: C. militaris is considered to be heterothallic (E). However, certain C. militaris strains can form sterile fruiting bodies without an opposite mating-type. This is an unusual finding among ascomycetes (E).


North America, Europe and Asia. In North America, it is more common East of the Rocky Mountains (A). Found June- November.


Parasitic on buried larvae and pupae of insects.


Pharmacologically active components: cordycepin, cordycepic acids, polysaccharides and macrolides.

Cordycepin inhibits cell proliferation, protein synthesis and cell adhesion (D). As a result, it is currently undergoing clinical trials against cancer. It is also a broad-specrum anti-microbial (E).

Toxicity: C. militaris genome does not contain genes linked to the production of known mycotoxins (E).


(A) Kuo, M. (2006, October). Cordyceps militaris. Retrieved from the
MushroomExpert.Com Web site:
( C)
(D) Wong YY, Moon A, Duffin R, Barateig AB, Meijer HA, Clemens MJ, de Moor CH (2010a) Cordycepin inhibits protein synthesis and cell adhesion through effects on signal transduction. J Biol Chem 285:2610–2621
(E)Zheng P, Xia Y, Xiao G, Xiong C, Hu X, Zhang S, Zheng H, Huang Y, Zhou Y, Wang S, et al. 2011. Genome sequence of the insect pathogenic fungus Cordyceps militaris, a valued traditional chinese medicine. Genome Biol 12:R116.


Current Name:
Cordyceps militaris (L.) Link, Handbuck zur Erkennung der Nutzbarsten und am Häufigsten Vorkommenden Gewächse 3: 347 (1833)

Clavaria granulosa Bull., Hist. Champ. France (Paris) 10: 199, tab. 496:1 (1791)
Clavaria militaris L., Sp. pl. 2: 1182 (1753)
Corynesphaera militaris (L.) Dumort., Comment. bot. (Tournay): 1-116 (1822)
Hypoxylon militare (L.) Mérat, Nouv. Fl. Environs Paris: 137 (1821)
Sphaeria militaris (L.) Ehrh., (1821)
Torrubia militaris (L.) Tul. & C. Tul., Selecta Fungorum Carpologia: Nectriei- Phacidiei- Pezizei 3: 6 (1865)
Xylaria militaris (L.) Gray, Nat. Arr. Brit. Pl. (London) 1: 510 (1821)

Description author: walt sturgeon (Request Authorship Credit)
Description editors: Nathan Wilson, Leandra

Created: 2011-12-07 10:28:48 CST (-0600) by walt sturgeon (Mycowalt)
Last modified: 2012-12-12 16:41:13 CST (-0600) by Leandra (mushrrom)
Viewed: 214 times, last viewed: 2018-10-29 23:54:29 CDT (-0500)