Fungalpedia – Note 138 Pisolithus


Pisolithus Alb. & Schwein.

Citation if using this entry: Bera et al. (in prep) Basidiomycota. Mycosphere

Index Fungorum, Facesoffungi, MycoBank, GenBank, Fig. 1

Basidiomycota, Agaricomycetes, Boletales, Sclerodermatceae

Pisolithus, a gastromycete genus, boasts a global presence and has demonstrated remarkable efficacy in promoting tree growth under specific conditions (Marx 1977). Pisolithus tinctorius (Mont.) E. Fisch., is one such species which was first reported by van der Bijl (1918) in Eucalyptus plantations in South Africa. Its symbiotic association with not only Eucalyptus but also with Pinus, Quercus, and other coniferous and broad-leaved tree species has been confirmed experimentally later (Marx & Bryan 1970, Ashton 1976, Marx 1977, Gibson 1979). The ability of P. tinctorius to improve tree growth has been utilized especially in afforested areas and adverse soil conditions (Van der Westhuizen & Eicker 1989).  Other species within this genus are also known to establish ectomycorrhizal associations with a diverse array of woody plants, including both angiosperms and gymnosperms such as Pinaceae, Myrtaceae, Fagaceae, Mimosaceae, Dipterocarpaceae, and Cistaceae (Reddy et al. 2005).

As per Van der Westhuizen & Eicker (1989), the basidiocarps of P. tinctorius has variable shapes ranging from being broadly ovoid, to pulvinate or sub-globose or pyriform with yellowish rhizomorphic strands attached to the substratum. The peridium is glabrous and shiny, initially whitish but turning into hazel or honey to darker markings in a “snake-skin effect” (Van der Westhuizen & Eicker 1989). The gleba cracks into ovoid or polygonal peridioles with olivaceous brown, verruculose or echinulate ornamented matured basidiospores (Van der Westhuizen & Eicker 1989).

The genus exhibits high heterogeneity in terms of morphology of the basidiomata, basidiospores, and isolate cultures (Cairney & Chambers 1999). However, the challenges in Pisolithus systematics arise from inadequate species descriptions, and the misapplication of the epithet “tinctorius” to multiple similar-looking species resulting in numerous species being incorrectly classified as synonyms (Cairney & Chambers 1999). The phylogenetic analyses later unveiled substantial genetic diversity within the species, indicating that the P. tinctorius group encompasses a complex of multiple distinct species worldwide (Martin et al. 1998, Anderson et al. 2001, Martin et al. 2002, Kanchanaprayudh et al. 2003, Moyersoen et al. 2003, Singla et al. 2004), which cannot be separated by morphological studies. In recent years, a considerable number of taxa have been separated from the overarching concept of P. tinctorius through assessments of morphological traits, geographical range, host plant association, physiological adaptations, basidiospore features such as ornamentation and size, as well as molecular data (Cairney & Chambers 1999Díez et al2001Kanchanaprayudh et al. 2003Moyersoen & Beever 2004Reddy et al. 2005Phosri et al. 2012Leonard et al2013Martín et al. 2013Lebel et al. 2018). As per Index Fungorum (, currently approx. 20 accepted species of Pisolithus have been recorded to date. 


Type species: Pisolithus arhizus (Scop.) Rauschert


Figure 1. Pisolithus tinctorius. a. Basidiomata. b. Basidiospores under SEM. c. Hyphae from advancing zone of culture showing branching and clamp connections. d. Hyphae from aerial mycelium of culture showing paarige branching. e. Hyphae from aerial mycelium of culture showing multiple clamps and branches. Pileipellis. Scale bars: a = 10 mm. Drawn from Van der Westhuizen & Eicker 1989.



Anderson IC, Chambers SM, Cairney JW 2001 – ITS–RFLP and ITS sequence diversity in Pisolithus from central and eastern Australian sclerophyll forests. Mycological Research, 105(11), 1304–1312.

Aston DH 1976 – Studies on the mycorrhizae of Eucalyptus regnans F. Aust. J. Bot, 24, 723–41.

Cairney JWG, Chambers SM 1997 – Interactions between Pisolithus tinctorius and its hosts: a review of current knowledge. Mycorrhiza, 7, 117–131.

Díez J, Anta B, Manjón JL, Honrubia M 2001 – Genetic variability of Pisolithus isolates associated with native hosts and exotic eucalyptus in the western Mediterranean region. New Phytologist, 149(3), 577–587.

Gibson IAS 1979 – Diseases of forest trees widely planted as exotics in the tropics and southern hemisphere. Part II. The genus Pinus. Commonwealth Forestry Institute, Univ. of Oxford, Oxford, 135 pp.

Kanchanaprayudh J, Hogetsu T, Zhou Z, Yomyart S, Sihanonth P 2003 – Molecular phylogeny of ectomycorrhizal Pisolithus fungi associated with pine, dipterocarp, and eucalyptus trees in Thailand. Mycoscience, 44(4), 287–294.

Lebel T, Pennycook S, Barrett M 2018 – Two new species of Pisolithus (Sclerodermataceae) from Australasia, and an assessment of the confused nomenclature of P. tinctorius. Phytotaxa, 348(3), 163–186.

Leonard PL, McMullan-Fisher SJM, Lebel T 2013 – Pisolithus croceorrhizus P. Leonard & McMullan-Fisher sp. nov. from Queensland, Australia and New Caledonia. Australasian Mycologist, 31, 25–29.

Martin F, Delaruelle C, Ivory M 1998 – Genetic variability in intergenic spacers of ribosomal DNA in Pisolithus isolates associated with pine, eucalyptus and Afzelia in lowland Kenyan forests. The New Phytologist, 139(2), 341–352.

Martin F, Díez J, Dell B, Delaruelle C 2002 – Phylogeography of the ectomycorrhizal Pisolithus species as inferred from nuclear ribosomal DNA ITS sequences. New Phytologist, 153(2), 345–357.

Martín MP, Durán F, Phosri C, Watling R 2013 – A new species of Pisolithus from Spain. Mycotaxon, 124(1), 149–154. _I_from_Spa.pdf&Expires=1693436204&Signature=cukWyyeUBDZgp6aW5Qr5MFZEHpl9d-kM4~VhO0 ~JAXDPUBS5Mi8VxpjgpqmPiFyFXkl13Ql9CoK34EZndCGDKAOjx0hO3dMmujO3Qb6XsLBz3IUrsQRO z7803ecKFurlYno2rlS2CtdhFIj2ZI~J1b0ZpikecPKpg0gFyw66E~S80ZPu7SOvHEd~MVwZGHJTy5tFDSzonlE-SuHHgr9nCG1Mt53lQoYAwzAAn~zHt5VmjyARwuYxDKMaQymrhGewyiUoHxYWAtbbks9PduYcghrTDlyGu-AR0cNVIjXGA~sTZwwpfDHYwJSxLiaIsSznbEaKvnvA9RxwPkYIK8is4A__&Key-Pair-Id=APKAJLOHF5GGSLRBV4ZA

Marx DH 1977 – Tree host range and world distribution of the ectomycorrhizal fungus Pisolithus tinctorius. Canadian Journal of Microbiology, 23(3), 217–223.

Marx DH, Bryan WC 1970 – Pure culture synthesis of ectomycorrhizae by Thelephora terrestris and Pisolithus tinctorius on different conifer hosts. Canadian Journal of botany, 48(3), 639–643.

Moyersoen B, Beever RE 2004 – Abundance and characteristics of Pisolithus ectomycorrhizas in New Zealand geothermal areas. Mycologia, 96(6), 1225–1232.

Moyersoen B, Beever RE, Martin F 2003 – Genetic diversity of Pisolithus in New Zealand indicates multiple long‐distance dispersal from Australia. New Phytologist, 160(3), 569–579.

Phosri C, Martín MP, Suwannasai N, Sihanonth P, Watling R 2012 – Pisolithus: a new species from southeast Asia and a new combination. Mycotaxon, 120(1), 195–208.

Reddy MS, Singla S, Natarajan K, Senthilarasu G 2005 – Pisolithus indicus, a new species of ectomycorrhizal fungus associated with Dipetrocarps in India. Mycologia, 97(4), 838–843.

Singla S, Reddy MS, Marmeisse R, Gay G 2004 – Genetic variability and taxonomic position of ectomycorrhizal fungus Pisolithus from India. Microbiological research, 159(3), 203–210.

van der Bijl PA 1918 – Notes on Polysaccum crassipes D.C.; a common fungus in Eucalyptus plantations round Pretoria. Trans. R. Soc. S. Afr., 6, 209–214.

Van der Westhuizen GCA, Eicker A 1989 – The morphology and cultural characters of Pisolithus tinctorius (Gasteromycetes) in South Africa. South African Journal of Botany, 55(1), 17–21.


Entry by

Ishika Bera, Center of Excellence in Fungal Research, Mae Fah Luang University, Chiang Rai 57100, Thailand


(Edited by Kevin D Hyde)