Based on morphology, fungal species have been considered widespread and as a result names of species from Europe or eastern North America were applied to species in western North America. However, DNA sequences have shown that many western taxa are different from their European counterparts; one such case is presented here. Comparisons of ITS and LSU rDNA sequences from ectomycorrhizal root tips and ascomata of specimens identified as Helvella lacunosa from North America, Europe and Asia revealed that the taxa from western North America and Mexico formed a well supported clade different from the eastern North American, European and Asian taxa. Within this western North American clade there are at least four taxa. Here we describe two of these western taxa as new species: Helvella vespertina and Helvella dryophila. Helvella vespertina is a bigger version of H. lacunosa, is variable in hymenial color and shape and forms ectomycorrhizae with conifers; it fruits typically Oct-Jan. Helvella dryophila is characterized by a dark almost black, squat pileus, a light stipe when young, medium size and forms ectomycorrhizae with Quercus species; it fruits Jan-Jun. Due to insufficient material, the two other Helvella taxa are discussed but not formally described here. We also examined the Hypomyces and other mycoparasites associated with the ascomata of Helvella species and discuss misleadingly labeled sequences in public databases.
- Host plants
- North American mycoflora