Fungalpedia – Note 137 Thelephora


Thelephora Ehrh. ex Willd.

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

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

Basidiomycota, Agaricomycetes, Thelephorales, Thelephoraceae

Thelephora, the type genus of the family Thelephoraceae has unique basidiomata that often resemble intricately folded or convoluted structures. However, the genus exhibits an extensive variety of basidiomata morphology ranging from clavarioid, stereoid, urniform, merismatoid, superposed rosette, or intermediatory forms (Ramírez-López et al. 2015Yang et al. 2023). Interestingly, two species of ThelephoraT. versatilis Ram.-Lóp. & Villegas and T. pseudoversatilis Ram.-Lóp. & Villegas, exhibited a sub-resupinate to resupinate habit on living plants as well (Ramírez-López et al. 2013). This basidiomycete genus has smooth-surfaced pileus but sometimes strigose, papillose, or faintly ribbed surfaces were also observed (Liu et al. 2021). The hymenophore varies from smooth to faintly wrinkled and stains cyanescent in KOH (Cunningham 1957Corner 1968Stalpers 1993). The basidia can be 2–4 sterigmatic (Clémençon 1997) with brown, spinose, verruculose or echinulate, warty, inamyloid basidiospores (Ramírez-López et al. 2015, Liu et al. 2021). The hyphal system is monomitic composed of frequently fibulated and brown-walled, generative hyphae with clamp connections (Cunningham 1963, Corner 1968, Yangdo et al. 2015, Ramírez-López et al. 2015, Das et al. 2018, Liu et al. 2021). 

Morphologically, the diverse shapes of basidiomata and the ornamentation of basidiospores easily differentiate Thelephora from other genera of the family Thelephoraceae (Yang et al. 2023). Yet, the phylogenetic analysis revealed that another genus in the family, Tomentella Pers. ex Pat. showed a very close affinity with Thelephora where both these genera lack distinct separate monophyletic clades and always remain intertwined within the same evolutionary lineage (Vizzini et al. 2016Lu et al. 2022).  The microscopical characters such as similar-sized and ornamented basidiospores in some species within these two genera also corroborate this fact (Stalpers 1993Lee et al. 2010Yorou et al. 2011Ramírez-López et al. 2015). Thus, the precise classification boundary between these two genera has been a subject of controversy and remains unsettled (Ramírez-López et al. 2015Li et al. 2020Lu et al. 2022). 

Thelephora holds a fundamental significance in ecological, medicinal and commercial aspects. The genus is best known for its ectomycorrhizal habit for a single species, T. terrestris Ehrh. ex Fr. which is quite popular as a symbiont especially in the northern hemisphere with conifers (Corner 1968Marx & Bryan 1970). Some other species like T. vialis Schwein., T. aurantiotincta Corner, and T. ganbajun M. Zang are known for their edibility (Zhou & Wei 1986Colpaert 1999, Yang et al. 2023). Prominently, T. ganbajun holds high economic value due to the presence of active chemical components such as polysaccharides, phenolic compounds, steroids, and fatty acids, antioxidants which are responsible for immunity, anti-cancer activity and liver protection in humans (Xu et al. 2016, Wang et al. 2017Zheng et al. 2020Lu et al. 2022Yang et al. 2023). 

Combined study of morphology and phylogeny (nrITS-LSU) has discovered many species of Thelephora from tropical and temperate forests of Asia, Europe, and North America (Ramírez-López et al. 20132015Vizzini et al. 2016Khalid & Muhammad 2017Das et al. 2018Li et al. 2020). To date, there is approximately 52 accepted species of this genus worldwide (


Type species: Thelephora terrestris Ehrh. ex Fr.


Figure 1. Thelephora ganbajun (IFP 19554).  a. Basidiomata. b. Basidiospores. c. Hyphae from pileal context. d. section of hymenium and subhymenium. Scale bars: b = 5 μm; c & d = 10 μm. Drawn from Yang et al. 2023.



Clémençon H 1997 – Anatomy of the Hymenomycetes: an introduction to the cytology and plectology of crust fungi, bracket fungi, club fungi, Chanterelles, Agarics and Boletes. F. Flück-Wirth, Teufen, Switzerland.

Colpaert JV 1999 – Thelephora. In Ectomycorrhizal fungi key genera in profile (325–345). Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer Berlin Heidelberg.

Corner EJH 1968 – A monograph of Thelephora (Basidiomycetes).

Cunningham GH 1957 – Thelephoraceae of New Zealand (parts XII, XIII). Part XII: the genera Thelephora and Tomentella. Transact. R. Soc. N. Zeal., 84, 479–496.

Cunningham GH 1963 – The Thelephoraceae of Australia and New Zealand (No. 145). RE Owen, Government printer.

Kanad D, Hembrom ME, Aniket G, Arvind P, Kuhar F 2018 – Thelephora sikkimensis sp. nov. (Thelephoraceae) from the eastern Himalayas (India). Nova Hedwigia, 107(3/4), 337–347.

Khalid AN, Muhammad H 2017 – Thelephora iqbalii sp. nov. from the Himalayan moist temperate forests of Pakistan. Mycotaxon, 132(4), 943–950.

Lee SS, Thi BK, Patahayah M 2010 – An ectomycorrhizal thelephoroid fungus of Malaysian dipterocarp seedlings. J. Trop. For. Sci., 22, 355–363.

Li T, Li T, Song B, Hosen MI 2020 – Thelephora austrosinensis (Thelephoraceae), a new species close to T. ganbajun from southern China. Phytotaxa, 471(3), 208–220.

Liu XF, Tibpromma S, Xu JC, Kumla J, Karunarathna SC, Zhao CL 2021 – Taxonomy and phylogeny reveal two new potential edible ectomycorrhizal mushrooms of Thelephora from East Asia. Diversity, 13(12), 646.

Lu X, Cao T, Nguyễn TTT, Yuan HS 2022 – Six new species of Tomentella (Thelephorales, Basidiomycota) from tropical pine forests in Central Vietnam. Frontiers in Microbiology, 13, 864198.

Marx DH, Bryan WC, Davey CB 1970 – Influence of temperature on aseptic synthesis of ectomycorrhizae by Thelephora terrestris and Pisolithus tinctorius on loblolly pine. Forest Science, 16(4), 424–431.

Ramírez-López I, Villegas Ríos M, Cano-Santana Z 2013 – Phenotypic plasticity of the basidiomata of Thelephora sp. (Thelephoraceae) in tropical forest habitats. Revista de Biología Tropical, 61(1), 343–350.

Ramírez-López I, Villegas-Ríos M, Salas-Lizana R, Garibay-Orijel R, Alvarez-Manjarrez J 2015 – Thelephora versatilis and Thelephora pseudoversatilis: two new cryptic species with polymorphic basidiomes inhabiting tropical deciduous and sub-perennial forests of the Mexican Pacific coast. Mycologia, 107(2), 346–358.

Stalpers JA 1993 – The aphyllophoraceous fungi I. Keys to the species of the Thelephorales. Stud. Mycol., 35, 1–168.

Vizzini A, Angelini C, Losi C, Ercole E 2016 – Thelephora dominicana (Basidiomycota, Thelephorales), a new species from the Dominican Republic, and preliminary notes on thelephoroid genera. Phytotaxa, 265(1), 27–38. minicana_Basidiomycota_Thelephorales_a_new_species_from_the_Dominican_Republic_and_preliminary_notes_on_ thelephoroid_genera/links/5c0932f292851c39ebd79969/Thelephora-dominicana-Basidiomycota-Thelephorales-a-new-species-from-the-Dominican-Republic-and-preliminary-notes-on-thelephoroid-genera.pdf

Wang P, Zhang Y, Sha T, Xu J 2017 – The complete mitochondrial genome of the edible Basidiomycete mushroom Thelephora ganbajun. Mitochondrial DNA Part B, 2(1), 103–105.

Yang SR, Wei YL, Yuan HS 2023 – Molecular phylogeny and morphology reveal four new species of Thelephora (Thelephorales, Basidiomycota) from subtropical China, closely related to T. ganbajun. Frontiers in Microbiology, 14, 1109924.

Yangdo R, Kumar S, Sharma YP 2015 – Three hitherto unreported macrofungi from cold arid region of Ladakh Province, Jammu and Kashmir, India. Kavaka, 44, 42–44. ntans_AVF2/links/5981b44ca6fdccb310052e5f/Optimization-of-culture-condition-for-amylase-production-by-Penicillium-frequentans-AVF2.pdf#page=46

Yorou NS, Guelly AK, Agerer R 2011 – Anatomical and ITS rDNA-based phylogenetic identification of two new West African resupinate thelephoroid species. Mycoscience, 52(6), 363–375.

Zheng L, Ma Y, Zhang Y, Meng Q, Yang J, Gong W, … Yang Y 2020 – Distribution of zinc in mycelial cells and antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities of mycelia zinc polysaccharides from Thelephora ganbajun TG-01. Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity, 1–17.

Zhou T, Wei R 1986 – Taxonomic study on two edible species of Thelephora in Yunnan, China. Acta Bot Yunnanica, 8, 295–297.


Entry by

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


(Edited by Kevin D Hyde)