Plant Diversity ›› 2011, Vol. 33 ›› Issue (6): 625-642.DOI: 10.3724/SP.J.1143.2011.11059

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Verification of Chinese Names of Truffles and Their Conservation in Natural Habitats

 WANG  Yun-1、2, LIU  Pei-Gui-1   

  1. 1 Key Laboratory of Biodiversity and Biogeography, Kunming Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Kunming 650201, China;
    2 The New Zealand Institute for Plant & Food Research Ltd., Christchurch, New Zealand
  • Received:2011-04-12 Online:2011-12-25 Published:2011-07-08


Truffles are fungi belonging to the genus Tuber (Ascomycota), which form belowground ascocarps or fruiting bodies (hypogeous fungi). Some truffles are highly prized culinary commodities in the world. Although China has rich mushroom cultures and a quite few edible or medicinal fungal species were described in ancient texts but no truffle (Tuber) was recorded. A false truffle, the species of basidiomycetes Rhizopogon rubescens, was described in Renyu Chen’s “JunPu” in 1245 and called “Maixun”. This name was also found in some ancient Japanese mushroom books with the species also referred to as “Songlu”. Recently there has been a trend in China to call truffles “Songlu” in many publications and websites. However, the use of this name should be discouraged as it specifically refers to R.rubescens and is not appropriate to use for true truffles. Since the 1990s, increasing amounts of Chinese black truffles have been sold in international markets and harvesting and trading of Chinese black truffles is now a multimillion dollar industry. Unfortunately, one of consequences of largescale commercial harvesting of Chinese black truffles is that their forest environments have been severely damaged by unrestricted plundering of these natural resources. Local production has declined to the extent that truffle resources may face extinction if destructive harvesting methods are not stopped. Management and legislation on the commercial harvesting and conservation of truffles in China are urgently needed. The main edible black truffle species in China are Tuber indicum, Tuber sinese, Tuber aestivum, and Tuber pseudohimalayense (=T.pseudoexcavatum). The species known as Tuber himalayense has not been found in China up to now. Attempts to obtain DNA sequences from the type specimen of T.indicum were unsuccessful so it was subsequently impossible to analyse the phylogenetic relationship between T.indicum and T.sinense. There seems to be no sound evidence that collections previously identified as T.indicum from SW China actually represent this species which was originally described from India. Future collections of T.indicum from the type locality or nearby areas may clarify this issue. Several collections of white truffle species were obtained from SW China in 2010. Although their exact taxonomic positions have not yet been established, their large ascocarps and strong truffle aroma suggest significant commercial potential. These recent findings indicate that China has much richer truffle diversity than previously expected. A brief introduction to some important edible European truffle species including Tuber magnatum, Tuber melanosporum, T.aestivum (=T.uncinatum), Tuber brumale and Tuber borchii is given. The ecological and economic importance of truffles and aspects of their cultivation are also discussed.

Key words: Chinese truffles and names, Distinguish, Severely danger, Cultivation, Retrieval

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