Fungalpedia – Note 214, Podaxis 


Podaxis Desv.  

Citation if using this entry: Bera et al. 2024 (in prep) – Fungalpedia, Basidiomycota 1. 

Index FungorumMycoBank, Facesoffungi, GenBank, Fig. 1

Classification: Agaricaceae, Agaricales, Agaricomycetes, Basidiomycota, Fungi

Podaxis has captivated many scientists and explorers for centuries due to less-known facts about the biology behind its evident association with termites (Conlon et al. 2016). Podaxis has a well-documented history of being observed in connection with the grass-harvesting termite Trinervitermes from Africa and Nasutitermes in Australia (Massee 1890Lenz & Priest 1999). The initial representation of Podaxis was identified as Fungus melitensis (Boccone 1697), with a detailed description and an additional suggestion that it is “well suited to the treatment of dysentery” (Boccone 1697, Conlon et al. 2019). In the initial documentation, three species of Podaxis were described under  Lycoperdon Pers. as Lycoperdon pistillare L., L. carcinomale L. f., and L. axatum Bosc  (Linnaeus 17711781, Bosc 1792, Conlon et al. 2019). Desvaux (1809), for the first time, described Podaxis. Lycoperdon axatum from Senegal underwent a renaming process, becoming P. senegalensis Desv. (Desvaux 1809) and was subsequently assigned as the type species. Following that, numerous additional species were later documented, but most were acknowledged as synonyms by Massee (1890). Subsequently, mainly documenting the North American specimens, Morse (1933) reduced the previously reported thirty-two species into   one polymorphic species, namely P. pistillaris (Morse 1933Bottomley 1948Conlon et al. 2016). Despite criticism from some (Heim 1938, 1977), this classification found widespread acceptance throughout the latter part of the 20th century and extended into the 21st century (Bottomley 1948Doidge 1950Conlon et al. 2016). 

The basidiomata of Podaxis is mostly grayish to whitish when young but turns brown on maturity and consists of long bulbous stipe (Medina-Ortiz et al. 2017). The pileus has a bi-layered peridium and a capillitium (Medina-Ortiz et al. 2017). The exoperidium is scaly with deciduous scales at maturity, whereas the endoperidium is membranous, persistent, and degraded by longitudinal fissures (Medina-Ortiz et al. 2017). The capillitium threads are hyaline or pigmented, septate, and branched (Medina-Ortiz et al. 2017). The basidiospores are generally smooth and pigmented with two-layered walls (Medina-Ortiz et al. 2017). The intraspecific distinction is primarily based on the basidiospore morphology (Heim 1977McKnight & Stransky 1980De Villiers et al. 1989Lenz & Priest 1999), and less comprehensive phylogenetic inferences have been undertaken (Conlon et al. 2016). In the revisionary works, nrITS and nrLSU sequence data have been used for phylogeny (Conlon et al. 2016Medina-Ortiz et al. 2017). Also, the feeding habits of termites on Podaxis remain uncertain, but it is plausible that this fungus utilizes the concentrated nutrients within the termite nest without impacting the termites (Conlon et al. 2016). 

Alternatively, there is a probability that Podaxis is a parasite growing inside the nest of the termite colony (Conlon et al. 2016). Even if it benefitted from the termites, the species of Podaxis has not been documented exclusively with the association of termites (Conlon et al. 2016). The association has only occurred in the overlapping host-termite ranges in mostly sandy and dry savannah habitats (Massee 1890, Herbert 1953, Dring 1964Zoberi 1972Hilton & Kenneally 1981Lenz & Priest 1999Conlon et al. 2016). This unique lifestyle makes Podaxis a potential model organism study for various adaptations in extreme environments (Conlon et al. 2019). Currently, there have been 28 species documented in Species Fungorum (2024) under Podaxis.Top of Form

Synonyms: Catachyon (Ehrenb. ex Fr.) Fr., Cauloglossum Grev. ex Fr., Chainoderma Massee, Herculea Fr., Schweinitzia Grev.

Type species: Podaxis senegalensis Desv.  

Other accepted species: (Species Fungorum – search Podaxis)



Figure 1 – Podaxis pistillaris a,b Basidiomata. c Basidiospores. Scale bars: c = 10 μm. Drawn and taken from Lenz & Priest (1999) and



Boccone P. 1697 – Museo di fisica e di esperienze variato, e decorato di osservazioni naturali, note medicinali, e ragionamenti secondo i principij de’moderni. Baptistam Zuccato, Venice. 

Bosc LAG. 1792 – Lycoperdon axatum. Actes de la Société d’Histoire Naturelle de Paris, 1, 47.

Bottomley AM. 1948 – Gasteromycetes of South Africa. Bothalia 4(3), 474–810

Conlon BH, Aanen DK, Beemelmanns C, De Beer ZW et al. 2019 – Reviewing the taxonomy of Podaxis: Opportunities for understanding extreme fungal lifestyles. Fungal biology 123(3), 183–187

Conlon BH, De Beer ZW, Henrik H, Aanen DK, Poulsen M. 2016 – Phylogenetic analyses of Podaxis specimens from Southern Africa reveal hidden diversity and new insights into associations with termites. Fungal biology 120(9), 1065–1076

De Villiers JJR, Eicker A, Van der Westhuizen GCA. 1989 – A new section and two new species of Podaxis (Gasteromycetes) from South Africa. South African Journal of Botany 55(2), 159–164

Desvaux NA. 1809 – Observations sur quelques genres a etablir dans la famille des champignons. Journal de Botanique, Paris 2(38), 97–99

Doidge EM. 1950 – The South African fungi and lichens to the end of 1945Bothalia 5

Dring DM. 1964 – Gasteromycetes of west tropical Africa. Mycological Papers 98, 1–60

Heim R. 1938 – Observations sur la flore mycologique malgache. VI. Les champignons des termitieres. Premiere note: Basidiomycetes. Boletim da Sociedade Broteriana 13, 45–63

Heim R. 1977 – Termites et Champignons. Boubee, Paris

Herbert JW. 1953 – Podaxis pistillaris, a fungus growing on termite mounds. The Queensland Naturalist 14, 120–123.

Hilton RN, Kenneally KF. 1981 – The desert Coprinus fungus Podaxis pistillaris in Western Australia. Western Australian Naturalist 15, 21–26

Lenz M, Priest MJ. 1999 – The genus Podaxis (Gasteromycetes) in Australia with a description of a new species from termite mounds. Australian Systematic Botany 12(1), 109–116

Linnaeus CV. 1771 – Mantissa Plantarum. Generum Editionis VI et Specierum Editionis II. Laurentius Salvius, Stockholm

Linnaeus CV. 1781 – Supplementum Plantarum. Orphanotrophei, Brunswick

Massee G. 1890 – A monograph of the genus Podaxon Desv. (=Podaxon Fa). Journal of Botany 28, 33–39 and 69–77

McKnight KH, Stransky M. 1980 – Notes on Podaxis argentinum from North America. Mycologia 72(1), 195–199

Medina-Ortiz AJ, Herrera T, Vásquez-Dávila MA, Raja HA et al. 2017 – The genus Podaxis in arid regions of Mexico: preliminary ITS phylogeny and ethnomycological use. MycoKeys 20, 17–36

Morse EE. 1933 – A study of the genus Podaxis. Mycologia 25(1), 1–33

Zoberi MH. 1972 – Tropical Macrofungi. MacMillan Press, London, United Kingdom


Entry by

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


(Edited by Kevin D Hyde, Samaneh Chaharmiri-Dokhaharani, & Achala R. Rathnayaka)