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Earth Tongues - Leotiomycetes p.p.

Most earth tongues are Ascomycota related to the inoperculate small cups in the Leotiomycetes, but there are a few real oddballs of the family tree on this page too.

Verpa conica may look like an earth tongue.


Key to Earth Tongues:

Leotiomycetes Leotiales - contains some jelly-like mushrooms, and even the "regular" earth tongues in this group sometimes seem slightly more gelatinous than those in other orders. <7cm.

Leotia lubrica - yellow "jelly babies" with a cap. More colourful than Cudonia. Much bigger than Vibrissea, etc. Somewhat gelatinous, as a jelly fungus. Down south the caps get more green and have been mistakenly thought to be a different species called L. viscosa.

Microglossum - clubs with an elongated flattened head, closely resembling Trichoglossum and Geoglossum, but usually brighter and more colourful, and slightly more jelly-like. The stem does not extend into the head like in Spathularia. Neolecta is smaller, yellow and irregular. These usually grow up to 7cm or so.

M. fumosum/rufum - yellow-orange-brown colours with a scaly stem.

M. olivaceum - olive brown tones, sometimes fairly dark.

M. atropurpureum - purplish black, very much like Geoglossum umbratile and fallax

M. viride - smaller, a beautiful green, probably not north of CA.


Cudonia circinans - fall, duller than Leotia and not at all gelatinous. <6cm high, <2cm wide

Cudonia grisea - spring, grey tones.

Cudonia (Pachycudonia) monticola - spring, duller still than C. circinans.

Spathularia flavida - yellow flattened head, stem extends into head.


These "match stick" earth tongues look very similar yet represent three different families! Heyderia is probably even in a separate order. Usually a few cm high.

Mitrula elegans - yellowish in very wet habitats, spring and summer, elongated head.

Bryoglossum gracile - similar on moss, summer and fall, round head.

Heyderia abietis - more brownish, not as bright.

The following species are very small and might be looked for under the cup fungi groups, but the cap is convex, not cup or plate shaped.

Vibrissea truncorum - pink or orange doorknobs on a pale stem, found on very wet wood. ~1cm high.

Other Vibrissea spp. are shaped like small cups.

Cudoniella clavus - white cushion topped stems on very wet woody debris. ~1cm. Related to the "cup" capped Hymenoscyphus.

Neocudoniella - similar or smaller and translucent and gelatinous.

Chloroscypha flavida (Gelatinodiscus flavidus) - also found in jellies. Well formed cushions on a stalk, only on yellow cedar debris, snowmelt species. <0.5cm.

Sarcoleotia globosa - similar, black head, on the ground, in the Geoglossomycetes. <2.5cm high.


Geoglossomycetes - inoperculate earth tongues like other Leotiomycetes, but different enough genetically that some are placing them in their own class. They most closely resemble Microglossum atropurpureum. Usually up to 7cm tall or so. The spores are usually dark.

Trichoglossum hirsutum - black with a flattened head, recognized by being finely hairy.

T. velutipes/variabile/walteri - other hairy species you can only separate microscopically.

Glutinoglossum glutinosum - viscid (sticky).

Geoglossum umbratile (nigritum)/glabrum - not hairy, not usually viscid (but perhaps a scaly stalk).  Black spores, like most in this class. Resemble Microglossum atropurpureum.

G. fallax - dark brown, with a dusting of white spores when young.

Sarcoleotia globosa - up to 2.5cm tall, a blackish doorknob on a reddish brown stem.


Eurotiomycetes - This class contains thousands of species, but very few that produce fruiting bodies large enough to see. The Eurotiales order contains a few truffles, and the Onygenales order contains a few species that look like earth tongues. They are very tiny sometimes powdery tan balls on a stick, ~2mm across, and grow on animal remains. Here is some interesting trivia: Trichophyton (athlete's foot and ringworm) is a related anamorph (asexual stage) fungus.

Onygena corvina - on animal bones, hair, wool or feathers, also owl pellets (think cat hair ball).

Onygena equina - on horns and hooves of cattle and sheep.


Neolectomycetes - If you think the Eurotiomycetes are weird, this mushroom is (in a way) in a class by itself. Thousands of half-yeasts are in this class, and only this fungus has developed a large fruiting body. Where are all of the missing links that represent the different stages of the "yeast" evolving into an earth tongue, and why aren't they extant? We may never know. ~3cm.

Neolecta vitellina - yellow irregular club with whiter base.

N. irregularis - the east coast species


Some mushrooms of this form are not Ascomycota at all but belong to different phyla. Also check the club fungi for more Basidiomycota.


One "gilled" mushroom does not have well developed gills and may be mistaken for an earth tongue, except it does have more of a regular cap and stem. It grows on decayed mushrooms, and the caps are <2.5cm across. Some tiny white Hemimycena are also gill-less.

Asterophora lycoperdoides - cap is dusted with brown asexual spores, gills almost absent.


Zygomycota - Only occasionally do fungi in other phyla have fruiting bodies large enough to see. Due to their very thin nature, they might be looked for on the club page.

Spinellus fusiger - thin as a strand of hair, with a tiny ball on the end containing the very large spores. Usually found growing parasitically on Mycena.

Phycomyces - similar looking but found on the ground growing in large tufts.


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