Cordyceps, a precious traditional medicine, is a parasitic form of the sac fungus Ophiocordyceps sinensis, belonging to the group of fungi Ascomycetes, parasitic on the larvae of some butterflies. belongs to the genus Thitarodes Viette.
The fungus, Ophiocordyceps sinensis, takes over the boԀɪᴇs of caterpillar larvae then shoots up like finger-size blades of grass out of the ԀᴇɑԀ insects’ heads. (See related pictures: “‘Zombie’ Ants Found With New Mind-Control Fungi.”)
Known as yartsa gunbu—or “summer grass winter worm”—by Chinese consumers, the nutty-tasting fungus is highly valued for its purported medicinal benefits, for instance, as a treatment for cancer and aging and as a libido booster. Far away in the booming cities of Beijing and Shanghai, demand for the fungus has soared.
These insect parasitic fungi are widely distributed in Asia and Australia with a center in East Asia. Caterpillars infected with this parasitic fungus usually live about 15 cm deep underground, deep under the grass in the Tibetan Plateau and Himalayas, at altitudes from 3000 to 5000m.
This fungus is found from the northern regions of Nepal, Bhutan and the northern states of India, in addition they are found in the northern provinces of Yunnan, eastern Qinghai, eastern Tibet and western provinces. Sichuan, southwestern Gansu.
Ground-dwelling caterpillars feed on plant roots, becoming susceptible to fungal infections especially after they molt in late summer. In late fall, chemicals on the caterpillar’s skin interact with the fungal spores and release mycelium, which will then begin to infect the caterpillar. The fungus spreads throughout the host and eventually ᴋɪʟʟs the host, gradually becoming hardy due to the nodules of the fungus growing inside.
The nucleus is a multiphasic structure that can become dormant and then germinate to produce spores. The dark brown to black stem-like fungus grows from the heads of ԀᴇɑԀ caterpillars and emerges from the ground in alpine meadows in early spring. In late summer, this protrusion begins to release spores to complete the cycle.
In rural Tibet, collecting cordyceps has become the most important source of income. Mushrooms contribute 40% of the annual cash income to local households.
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Video resource: Jimi Channel