Research Article
Research Article
The genus Catathelasma (Catathelasmataceae, Basidiomycota) in China
expand article infoZai-Wei Ge§, Jian-Yun Wu§, Yan-Jia Hao|, Qingying Zhang, Yi-Feng An§, Martin Ryberg#
‡ University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China
§ Kunming Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Kunming, China
| Anhui Agricultural University, Hefei, China
¶ Industrial Crops Research Institute, Yunnan Academy of Agricultural Sciences, Kunming, China
# Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden
Open Access


Two new species, Catathelasma laorentou and C. subalpinum, are described on the basis of morphological characters, phylogenetic evidence, host preferences and geographic distributions. A taxonomic key to the known species in China is also provided to facilitate identification. Based on samples from temperate Asia, Europe and North America, the phylogeny of Catathelasma was reconstructed using the internal transcribed spacer (ITS) region, the large subunit (LSU) of the ribosomal DNA and the translation elongation factor 1-α (TEF1).The phylogenetic results showed that Catathelasma contains two monophyletic clades: the /subalpinum clade and the /imperiale clade. The Asian species C. laorentou and C. subalpinum are closely related to the North American C. sp. (labelled as C. ventricosum in GenBank) in the /subalpinum clade, whereas C. imperiale and C. singeri are closely related in the /imperiale clade.


Catathelasmataceae, Biannulariaceae, Tricholomataceae, taxonomy, ectomycorrhizal fungi, new taxa


Catathelasma Lovejoy is the type genus of the mushroom family Catathelasmataceae Wasser (Wasser 1985; Sánchez-García et al. 2016). This genus was erected by Lovejoy (1910) based on the type species C. evanescens Lovejoy. Morphologically, species within this genus have distinct tricholomatoid basidiomes, decurrent to adnate to sinuate-adnexed lamellae, double annulus, white spores that are oblong, smooth, amyloid and acyanophilic, bilateral to subregular lamella trama, firm and white context, hyphae with clamp connections and an ixocutis, ixolattice or cutis as pileipellis.

Catathelasma has long been regarded a member of the Tricholomataceae (Singer 1975, 1986), but Jülich (1982) established the family Biannulariaceae Jülich, based on Biannularia Beck, which had been synonymised with Catathelasma (Singer 1940). In 1985, Wasser established the Catathelasmataceae to contain the only member Catathelasma (Wasser 1985), and this family has recently been emended to also include Callistosporium Singer, Guyanagarika Sánchez-García et al. (2016), Macrocybe Pegler & Lodge, Pleurocollybia Singer and Pseudolaccaria Vizzini et al. (Sánchez-García et al. 2016).

Catathelasma contains four species: C. evanescens, C. imperiale, C. singeri and C. ventricosum (Kirk et al. 2008, Singer 1986). Species within this genus have been suggested to be ectomycorrhizal (Trappe 1962; Kohzu et al. 1999; Tedersoo and Smith 2013) and tend to be found in coniferous forests in northern temperate regions (Singer 1979). In China, collections of Catathelasma have long been regarded as belonging to C. imperiale or C. ventricosum (Ying and Zang 1994; Yuan and Sun 2013; Zang et al. 1996). During our studies of the ectomycorrhizal fungi associated with members of the Pinaceae, especially Keteleeria spp. in China (Ge et al. 2012), a few collections of Catathelasma with distinct ITS sequences from Catathelasma sequences in GenBank were encountered. Here, we used morphological observations and multilocus phylogenetic analyses to (i) clarify the species identity of Catathelasma specimens in China and (ii) examine the phylogenetic relationships of Catathelasma species. We also took into account the geographic isolation and the host associations of the Chinese collections.

Materials and methods

Collections and morphological studies

Catathelasma specimens were collected in western and south-western China (Yunnan, Sichuan, Gansu and Tibet) and deposited in the Herbarium of Cryptogams, Kunming Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences (HKAS). Herbarium materials identified as Catathelasma evanescens Lovejoy and Catathelasma singeri Mitchel & A.H. Sm were loaned from Denver Botanic Garden, Sam Mitchel Herbarium of Fungi (DBG). Voucher information of the specimens and GenBank (Benson et al. 2017) accession numbers are detailed in Table 1.

Table 1.

Taxa, vouchers, geographic origin and GenBank accession numbers of DNA sequences of Catathelasma and outgroups used in this study. New sequences generated in this study are given in bold. * indicates the type collection.

Taxon Voucher Geographic origin GenBank accession number
Catathelasma singeri DBG-F-006151 USA: Colorado MK909090 MK909109 MK909079
C. singeri DBG-F-021378 USA: Colorado MK909091 MK909110 MK909078
DBG-F-021747 USA: Colorado MK909092 MK909111 MK909080
C. singeri as ventricosum PBM 2403 (AFTOL-ID 1488) USA: Washington DQ486686 DQ089012 N/A
C. imperiale HKAS 84299 (Z. W. Ge 3461) China: Tibet MK909094 MK909112 MK909081
HKAS 84315 (Z. W. Ge 3477) China: Sichuan MK909096 MK909113 MK909083
HKAS 79952 (X. B. Liu 251) China: Sichuan MK909095 MK909114 MK909084
HKAS 76511 (X. T. Zhu 662) China: Gansu MK909093 MK909115 MK909082
TAA176551 Canada: Newfoundland N/A AM946417 N/A
UPS F-173429 Sweden: Uppland MK909097 MK909116 MK909085
UPS F-120619 Sweden: Hälsingland MK909098 N/A N/A
TUB 011562 N/A DQ071743 DQ071835 N/A
LL_128 KX008987 N/A N/A
KM55154 UK: England GQ981498 N/A N/A
C. sp. as imperiale DAOM225247 KP255468 AF261402 KP255475
11CA01A USA: California N/A N/A KC816900
C. sp. as ventricosum DAOM221514 KP255469 AF261401 N/A
TRTC156545 Canada: Quebec JN020996 N/A N/A
Mat3 Canada: Quebec JN020995 N/A N/A
OSC 66879 USA: Pacific Northwest EU669305 EU669331 N/A
SMI349 Canada: British Columbia HQ650727 N/A N/A
TAA176473 Canada: Newfoundland N/A AM946418 N/A
C. laorentou HKAS 84458 (Z. W. Ge 3620) China: Yunnan MK909106 MK909117 MK909086
HKAS 92245 (Z. W. Ge 3765) China: Yunnan MK909103 MK909118 MK909087
*HKAS 105984 (Z. W. Ge 4070) China: Yunnan MK909107 N/A N/A
HKAS 71264 (T. Guo 368) China: Yunnan MK909105 MK909119 MK909088
HKAS 78582 (L. H. Han 23) China: Yunnan MK909108 MK909120 N/A
HKAS 76346 (Y. J. Hao 688) China: Sichuan MK909102 N/A N/A
HKAS 81166 (J. Qin 728) China: Yunnan MK909104 N/A N/A
C. subalpinum HKAS 70091 (Q. Cai 495) China: Yunnan MK909100 MK909123 MK909089
*HKAS 67751 (J. Qin 65) China: Yunnan MK909099 MK909121 N/A
HKAS 69920 (L. P. Tang 1459) China: Yunnan MK909101 MK909122 N/A
Callistosporium graminicolor PBM 2341 (AFTOL-ID 978) DQ484065 AY745702 GU187761
Callistosporium luteoolivaceum DUKE-JM99124 N/A AF261405 KP255477
MSM#004 KJ101607 N/A N/A

Morphological character descriptions were taken from field notes and colour images of the material, with colour names and codes following Kornerup and Wanscher (1978). Microscopic character observations followed published treatments on Catathelasma species (Mitchel and Smith 1978). Dried material was mounted in 5% aqueous (w/v) potassium hydroxide (KOH) under a Leica DM2500 microscope (Leica, Bensheim, Germany) and pileal structure, basidiospores and basidia were observed and measured in 5% KOH with 0.5% aqueous Congo Red (w/v). Melzer’s reagent was used to test the amyloidy of basidiospores. The length and width of at least 20 mature basidiospores from each specimen were measured in side view. Dimensions for basidiospores are reported as (a–) b–c (–d) and the abbreviation [n/m/p] indicates n basidiospores measured from m basidiomes of p collections. The range b–c contains a minimum of 90% of the measured values, with extreme values (a and d) presented in parentheses. Quotient of length and width (Q), average quotient (Qav) and standard deviation were calculated.

DNA extraction, PCR and sequencing

Genomic DNA was extracted from dry specimens using the modified cetyltrimethylammonium bromide (CTAB) method (Doyle and Doyle 1987). Briefly, approximately 10 mg tissue was ground into a fine powder in liquid nitrogen in a 1.5 ml Eppendorf tube using a plastic pestle, and 500 μl of an extraction buffer (2 × CTAB) were added. The mixture was incubated at 60 °C for 1.5 h, with 0.2% ß-mercaptoethanol added prior to the extraction. Phenol-chloroform-isoamyl alcohol (25:24:1) were used to remove any proteins and polysaccharides and DNA was precipitated by adding 400 μl isopropanol to the aqueous phase. The DNA pellet was washed in 400 μl 70% ethanol and air-dried, then suspended in 80 μl TE (pH 8.0).

PCR amplification was performed following Ge et al. (2014) on an ABI 2720 Thermal Cycler (Applied Biosystems, Foster City, CA, USA). Primers used to amplify the internal transcribed spacer (ITS) region and the large subunit (LSU) of the ribosomal DNA and translation elongation factor 1-α (TEF1) were ITS1F/ITS4, LR0R/LR5 and 983F/1567R, respectively (Gardes and Bruns 1993; Matheny 2005; Rehner and Buckley 2005). Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) parameters follow those of Ge et al. (2014). PCR products were purified using a QIAquick PCR purification kit (Qiagen Science, USA) and sent to Kunming Shuoqing Biotech Ltd. (Kunming, China) for sequencing. Both directions were sequenced to improve accuracy. Sequencing primers were the same as the initial PCR primers. Sequence chromatograms were inspected and contigs assembled using Seqman version 5.01 (DNA STAR Package; DNAStar, Madison, WI, USA). The sequences produced in this study were deposited in GenBank with accession numbers MK909078MK909123.

Sequence alignment and phylogenetic analyses

DNA sequences of ITS, LSU and TEF1 were independently aligned with MAFFT v6.8 (Katoh et al. 2009) with manual adjustments and the concatenated datasets were manually constructed. Sequences of Catathelasma species, generated for this study and those of the genus that are available in GenBank, were included. Callistosporium graminicolor Lennox and Callistosporium luteo-olivaceum (Berk. & M.A. Curtis) Singer were designated as outgroups based on previous phylogenetic studies (Ammirati et al. 2007; Sánchez-García et al. 2016). The datasets were then analysed using RAxML version 7.2.3 (Swofford 2002) and MrBayes v3.1.2 (Ronquist and Huelsenbeck 2003) for Maximum Likelihood (ML) and Bayesian Inference (BI), respectively. ML analyses were performed with 1000 bootstrap replicates, setting GTRGAMMAI as the selected model; and BI analyses were conducted with default parameters, except setting generations to 5 million and sampling every 1000th generation. As selected by MrModeltest v2.3 (Nylander 2004), rates = gamma, nst = 2 was set for ITS dataset and rates = gamma, nst = 6 were set for LSU and TEF1, respectively. Since the average standard deviation of split frequencies converged (< 0.01) after 1 million generations, the first 25% of the sampled Bayesian trees (1251 trees) of the analysis were discarded as the burn-in. As no significant incongruence was observed using bootstrap values above 70% as threshold, we incorporated the ITS, LSU and TEF1 sequences into a concatenated dataset and performed the ML and BI analyses and partitioned the dataset by gene, as mentioned above. Final alignments were deposited in TreeBASE ( under accession number S24480.


Phylogeny and species recognition

Forty-six new ITS, LSU and TEF1 sequences were generated for Catathelasma species and deposited in GenBank (Table 1). The alignments of the ITS, LSU and TEF1 sequences were 708, 861 and 582 characters in length after trimming, respectively. ML and BI analyses produced consistent monophyletic clades and congruent phylogenies (Fig. 1).

Besides four Chinese collections that were confirmed to be conspecific with C. imperiale, sequences generated from other specimens collected in south-western China formed two monophyletic clades here described as C. laorentou and C. subalpinum, respectively (Fig. 1); each clade was well supported by both ML and BI in the ITS, LSU, TEF1 and concatenated trees (Fig. 1), except that in the TEF1 phylogeny, C. subalpina is only represented by a single sequence.

As revealed by the analyses of the different genetic markers and concatenated dataset (ITS, LSU, TEF1 and the combined dataset), the genus Catathelasma comprises two monophyletic clades: the /imperiale clade and /subalpinum clade (Fig. 1). Within the /subalpinum clade, C. laorentou appears to be sister to C. subalpinum and these Asian species jointly form the sister clade to the North American C. sp. (Fig. 1D, labelled as C. ventricosum in GenBank).

The /imperiale clade included the northern-temperate-region distributed C. imperiale and the North American species C. singeri. The ITS, TEF1 and concatenated sequences suggest that C. singeri represents a monophyletic clade within or close to C. imperiale (Fig. 1). In contrast to the /subapinum clade, the inter-species relationships within the /imperiale clade are not fully resolved: C. singeri is supported by the ML analyses, but not strongly supported by the BI tree (Fig. 1), although ITS sequences of C. singeri are only 94% (599/635)–-95% (542/570) similar to those of C. imperiale.

Figure 1. 

Bayesian phylogenies of A ITS B 28S C TEF1 and D ITS+28S+TEF1 concatenated sequences for Catathelasma species. Maximum likelihood bootstrap support and Bayesian posterior probabilities are indicated by values above branches.


Considering the strong statistical support as monophyletic groups and the morphological differences, as well as their host preferences (see below), C. laorentou and C. subalpinum are described as new species.

Catathelasma imperiale (P. Karst.) Singer

Fig. 2C, D


Pileus 8–15 cm broad, hemispherical, convex to plano-convex, later expanded with decurved margin, sometimes depressed to funnel-shaped, smooth, dry to slightly viscid, greyish-brown, reddish-brownish or brown. Lamellae adnate to slightly decurrent, white to off-white when young, whitish to cream when mature, thick, 7–15 mm in height, with 1–2 series of lamellulae; edge smooth, grey to dark brown. Stipe 5–10 × 1.8–3.0 cm, fusiform, attenuate downwards, straight or curved, firm, with double annulus in which the lower annulus is often gelatinous and the upper annulus is membranous, with white to whitish upper surface and grey to brown lower surface. Context firm, white, not changing colour when cut; smell and taste farinaceous. Spore print white.

Basidiospores [60/3/3] 10–14.5 × 4.5–6 μm, hyaline in KOH, amyloid, congophilous, smooth, oblong to subcylindrical in frontal view, subcylindrical to somewhat inequateral in side view, thin-walled, without germ pore. Basidia 35–48 × 7–10 μm, 4-spored, narrowly clavate, hyaline; sterigmata up to 5 μm long. Cheilocystidia basidiole-like, with yellow to brown contents. Pleurocystidia absent. Lamella trama bilateral, composed of more or less parallel to interwoven hyphae. Oleiferous hyphae present in both lamella and pileus trama. Pileipellis a thick ixocutis of loosely interwoven cylindrical, 2–8 μm wide gelatinised hyphae, interspersed with oleiferous hyphae. Clamp connections present, common.


Ectomycorrhizal, solitary or scattered, in forests dominated by Picea spp. or Abies spp.

Specimens examined

China. Gansu Province: Gannan city, Diebu, Wabagou, alt. 2700 m, 12 August 2012, X. T. Zhu 662 (HKAS 76511), under Picea sp.; Sichuan Province: Gangzi prefecture, Dege, Manigange, alt. 4200 m, 9 August 2013, Z. W. Ge 3477 (HKAS 84315), under Picea asperata Mast.; same locality and date, X. B. Liu 251 (HKAS 79952); Tibet: on the way from Bangda to Changdu, 6 August 2013, Z. W. Ge 3461 (HKAS 84299), alt. 3980 m, under Picea asperata.

Figure 2. 

Basidiomes of Catathelasma species in China. A Catathelasma laorentou (HKAS 92245) B Catathelasma subalpinum (HKAS 67751) C Catathelasma imperiale (HKAS 79952) D Young Catathelasma imperiale (HKAS 84299) in association with roots of Picea asperata Mast. Scale bars: 2.5 cm.

Catathelasma laorentou Z.W. Ge, sp. nov.

MycoBank No: 830871
Figs 2A, 3


This species is distinguished from C. ventricosum (Peck) Singer by having pale yellow to greyish-yellow basidiomes, longer stipes, abundant clamp connections and associations with Pinus yunnanensis Mast. and Keteleeria evelyniana Franchet in south-western China.


China. Yunnan Province: Chuxiong, Zixi Mountain, alt. 1950 m, in forest dominated by K. evelyniana Mast. and P. yunnanensis Franchet, 26 August 2017, Z. W. Ge 4070 (Holotype: HKAS 105984). GenBank accession numbers: – ITS, MK909107.


Pileus 10–24 cm broad, hemispherical to convex at first, expanding to convex to broadly convex with age; surface initially white, then yellowish-white (1A2) to pale yellow (1A3), greyish-yellow (2B3) with age, smooth at first, irregularly depressed, margin more or less incurved, slightly viscid to viscid when wet, occasionally with whitish veil remnants. Lamellae decurrent, white to off-white when young, whitish when mature, thick, 7–15 mm in height, with 1–2 series of lamellulae, edge smooth. Stipe 6–24 × 1.5–8 cm, fusiform, attenuate downwards, straight or curved, firm, with double annulus in which the lower annulus is flimsy and the upper annulus is membranous to leathery, yellowish-white, often split into several pedals. Context white, 2.1–4.5 cm thick in pileus, white in pileus and stipe, not changing colour when cut; smell and taste farinaceous. Spore print white.

Basidiospores [70/3/3] (8) 9–12(15) × (4) 5–6.5 (7) μm (mean 9.9 ± 1.3 × 5.8 ± 0.5 μm), Q = (1.23) 1.33–2.2 (2.75), Qav = 1.72 ± 0.30, ellipsoid, oblong to subcylindrical in frontal view, subcylindrical to somewhat inequateral in side view, hyaline in KOH, amyloid, congophilous, smooth, thin walled, without germ pore. Basidia 38–50 × 8–10 μm, narrowly clavate, 4-spored, hyaline; sterigmata up to 6 μm long. Cheilocystidia basidiole-like, hyalinous. Pleurocystidia absent. Lamella trama subregular, somewhat bilateral towards lamella edge, made up of more or less parallel to interwoven hyphae. Oleiferous hyphae present in both lamella and pileus trama. Pileipellis a thick ixocutis (850–1000 μm thick) of loosely interwoven cylindrical, gelatinised hyphae 2–10 μm in width, interspersed with oleiferous hyphae. Clamp connections present, common.


Known from Sichuan and Yunnan provinces in south-western China.


Presumably ectomycorrhizal, solitary or scattered, rarely in small clusters of 2–5 basidiomes in Pinus or Keteleeria forests.


From ‘lao ren tou jun’, a transliteration of the Chinese name “老人头菌” which is a local common name used in the wild mushroom markets in Yunnan, China. The literal translation is “fungus that looks like the shiny bald pate of The God of Longevity”.

Additional specimens examined

China. Yunnan Province, Chuxiong, Nanhua, wild mushroom market, 12 August 2014, Z. W. Ge 3620 (HKAS 84458); Dali, Bingchuan, Jizu Mountain, alt. 2350 m, 4 August 2013, J. Qin 728 (HKAS 81166); Kunming, Aziying, 15 August 2015, Z. W. Ge 3765 (HKAS 92245); Kunming, Yeyahu, alt. 2000 m, 22 September 2012, L. H. Han 23 (HKAS 78582); Lijiang, Ninglang, alt. 2300 m, in Pinus yunnanensis forest, 6 August 2011, T. Guo 368 (HKAS 71264); Sichuan Province: Muli, Liziping, alt. 2500 m, in Pinus yunnanensis forest, 31 July 2012, Y. J. Hao 688 (HKAS 76346).


Catathelasma laorentou is morphologically similar to C. ventricosum (Peck) Singer, a species originally described from North America. Both species have ellipsoid basidiospores, large-sized hemispherical pilei and a pileipellis composed of an ixocutis layer. However, C. laorentou has abundant clamp connections, smaller basidiospores (9–11 × 5–6 μm), larger basidia (38–50 × 8–10 μm) and is found in coniferous forest dominated by P. yunnanensis and K. evelyniana from south-western China, while C. ventricosum is found alongside hardwood (Singer 1940).

Catathelasma singeri Mitchel & A.H. Sm. from the USA is morphologically similar to C. laorentou, but the former differs by its dull pale ochraceous to dingy olive buff pileus which is slimy viscid and shows similarities to Hygrophorus Fr., smaller basidiomes (pileus around 6 cm, stipe 4 × 1.2 cm), bearing basidiole-like or narrower cheilocystidia. Catathelasma singeri was collected from the aspen zone, which was dominated by Populus tremuloides and Pinaceae species, although the specific host tree was not mentioned (Mitchel and Smith 1978).

Catathelasma imperiale, originally described from Europe, is distinguished by its greyish-brown, reddish-brownish or brown basidiomes (Fig. 2C, D), cylindrical cheilocystidia with yellow contents and its association with species of Pinus, Picea and Abies (Læssøe and Petersen 2019; Vellinga 1999; personal observation by the first author).

Figure 3. 

Microscopic features of Catathelasma laorentou (HKAS 105984) A Basidiospores B Basidia C Pileipellis. Oleiferous hyphae are indicated by thick-walled hyphae. Scale bars: 10 μm.

Catathelasma subalpinum Z. W. Ge, sp. nov.

MycoBank No: 830872
Figs 2B, 4


Catathelasma subalpinum is distinguished from C. laorentou by having greyish-yellow to grey pilei, higher elevation (alt. 2600–3500 m) occurrence and association with Pinus densata Mast.


China. Yunnan Province: Lijiang, Ninglang, Xichuan Xiang, 14 July, 2010, J. Qin 65 (Holotype: HKAS 67751). GenBank accession numbers: – ITS, MK909099; LSU, MK909121.


Pileus 3.5–15 cm broad, hemispherical at early stage, expanding to broadly convex with age, shallowly depressed at centre, white to dirty white at first, then greyish-white (1B1) to greyish-yellow (4C4), grey (8B1) when mature, with incurved margin, viscid when wet, sometimes irregularly cracked. Lamellae slightly decurrent, crowded, whitish, thick, 8 mm in height, with 2–3 tiers of lamellulae, with smooth edge, covered by a white, well developed, thick membranous veil in early stage. Stipe 11–14 × 3–5.5 cm, fusiform, attenuated downwards, whitish to yellowish-white, firm, with double annulus in which the lower annulus is flimsy and the upper one is membranous, thick, around 2.5 cm away from the stipe apex; with white inner side and greyish-yellow outer side. Context white in pileus and stipe, not changing colour when cut, 3.5 cm thick in pileus; smell and taste farinaceous. Spore print white.

Basidiospores [43/2/2] (9) 10–12 × 5–6 μm (mean 10.7 ± 0.8 × 5.4 ± 0.5 μm), Q = (1.67) 1.80–2.20 (2.40), Qm = 1.99 ± 0.18, subcylindrical in frontal view, subcylindrical to somewhat inequilateral in side view, hyaline in KOH, amyloid, smooth, thin-walled. Basidia 35–45 × 8–9 μm, narrowly clavate, 4-spored; sterigmata up to 5 μm long. Pleurocystidia none. Cheilocystidia basidiole-like, hyalinous. Lamella trama subregular, somewhat bilateral towards lamella edge, made up of more or less parallel to interwoven hyphae. Oleiferous hyphae present in both lamella and pileus trama. Pileipellis a thick ixolattice (500–650 μm thick) of 1.5–10 μm wide hyphae which gelatinise and collapse, occasionally interspersed with oleiferous hyphae; the layer grading gradually into pileal trama. Clamp connections abundant in all tissues.


Known from Yunnan Province, south-western China.


Presumably ectomycorrhizal, in Pinus densata forests distributed at around alt. 2600–3500 m. Solitary to scattered, terrestrial.


The epithet "subalpinum" refers to the distribution range of the species.

Additional specimens examined

China. Yunnan Province: Lijiang, Elephant Hill, 1 August 2011, Q. Cai 495 (HKAS 70091); Ninglang, 6 August 2011, L. P. Tang 1459 (HKAS 69920).


Catathelasma subalpinum is closely related to C. laorentou, which is also from south-western China. However, C. subalpinum differs by its higher elevation distribution and its association with Pinus densata, while C. laorentou has pale yellow to greyish-yellow basidiomes, associations with P. yunnanensis and Keteleeria evelyniana forests and is comparatively more common than C. subalpinum. Besides, C. subalpinum has much fewer oleiferous hyphae in the pileipellis. In addition, phylogenetic trees, reconstructed from ITS, 28S, TEF1 and concatenated ITS-LSU-TEF1, support the separation of C. subalpinum from C. laorentou.

Catathelasma subalpinum is also morphologically similar to C. ventricosum Peck) Singer in general appearance. However, C. subalpinum is found in coniferous forest dominated by Pinus densata in south-western China, while C. ventricosum is associated with hardwood trees in south-eastern North America (Singer 1940); C. subalpinum has abundant clamp connections in all tissues and longer stipes measuring 11–14 × 3–5.5 cm (compared to the 4–5 × 4 cm for C. ventricosum).

Catathelasma singeri from USA is morphologically somewhat similar to C. subalpinum. However, C. singeri has a slimy viscid pileus that is more similar to species within the genus Hygrophorus Fr. (Mitchel and Smith 1978), smaller basidiomes (pileus around 6 cm, stipe 4 × 1.2 cm) compared with those of C. subalpinum (pileus up to15 cm, stipe 11–14 × 3–5.5 cm) and narrow, basidiole-like cheilocystidia.

Catathelasma evanescens, which was described from Wyoming (USA), is similar in general appearance and also has a high elevation distribution. However, C. evanescens has obvious distant lamellae, a hollow stipe, a volva-like veil around the base of the stipe and longer but narrower basidiospores measuring 14–17.5 × 3–5 μm, according to Lovejoy (1910).

Figure 4. 

Microscopic features of Catathelasma subalpinum (HKAS 67751). A Basidiospores B Basidia C Pileipellis. Oleiferous hyphae are indicated by thick-walled hyphae. Scale bars: 10 μm.

Key to the known species of Catathelasma in China

1 Pileus overall ochraceous, greyish-brown or reddish-brownish, lamellae with cylindrical or basidiole-like, yellow to brown cheilocystidia, under Pinus, Picea abies, Picea spp. or Abies spp C. imperiale
Pileus overall whitish, greyish-white, greyish-yellow or grey with age and sun exposure, sometimes brown in the centre, cheilocystidia basidiole-like, hyalinous, associated with Pinus spp. or Keteleeria spp 2
2 Pileus pale yellow to greyish-yellow, in forest dominated by Pinus yunnanensis or Keteleeria evelyniana in lower elevation (alt. 700–2900 m) C. laorentou
Pileus greyish-yellow to grey, in forest dominated by Pinus densata Mast. in higher elevation (alt. 2600–3500 m) C. subalpinum


Host species and geographic distribution as important indicators in delimiting species within Catathelasma

Most of the characters used to identify fungal species are based on the morphology of basidiomes. However, the use of morphological characters to delimit species boundaries may be inadequate due to the paucity of measurable characters as basidiomes only represent a single and transient part of the fungal life cycle (Petersen and Hughes 1999) and this turns out to be the case in Catathelasmataceae species. In a recent study, species within Guyanagarika were found to be very difficult to distinguish from each other, based on morphology and recognition of species within Guyanagarika is only possible through molecular markers (Sánchez-García et al. 2016). Here, besides the ecological niches, the two new species that are described only differ from each other in subtle characters, such as the colours of the pileus and the density of oleiferous hyphae in the pileipellis.

Based on stable isotope evidence, Catathelasma is ectomycorrhizal (Kohzu et al. 1999). Indeed, habitats of known Catathelasma species are all in ectomycorrhizal vegetations. For example, C. evanescens is found in “open balsam and spruce wood” (Lovejoy 1910) and C. imperiale is found in forests of Picea abies or other species of Picea, Abies or Pinus (Læssøe and Petersen 2019; Vellinga 1999). Similarly, C. singeri is from the aspen zone, which is dominated by Populus tremuloides and Pinaceae species (Mitchel and Smith 1978), while C. ventricosum was recorded growing with hardwood (Singer 1940). Catathelasma sp. is reported associating with conifers such as Picea sitchensis (e.g. Desjardin et al. 2014, as C. ventricosum).

In China, Catathelasma imperiale is distributed in alpine regions in western and south-western provinces, associated with Picea such as Picea asperata or Abies spp. The finding of two new Catathelasma species in China viz., C. subalpinum associated with P. densata and C. laorentou associated with P. yunnanensis and/or K. evelyniana, demonstrated that species in Catathelasma probably possess host tree preferences, indicating a much narrower distribution than previously thought (e.g. the idea that C. imperiale and C. ventricosum are widely distributed in the Northern hemisphere). Thus, in addition to morphological characters, host tree species and geographic distribution can be of help in delimiting species within ectomycorrhizal genera such as Catathelasma. Indeed, mycorrhizal host association and geographic separation could contribute to fungal speciation as host-shift events can provide ecological opportunities for the diversification of ectomycorrhizal fungi (Cui et al. 2016, 2018; Han et al. 2018; Sato et al. 2017; Sánchez-García et al. 2016).

Distribution pattern, evolutionary relationships within Catathelasma and future directions

Our study revealed that the geographical distribution differs amongst species of the genus: the previous records of C. ventricosum from China were based on incorrect identifications of C. laorentou or C. subalpinum, whereas C. imperiale, originally described from Europe, is indeed present in East Asia. Catathelasma laorentou and C. subalpinum seem to be endemic to south-western China (possibly East Asia), while C. ventricosum, C. evanescens, C. singeri and C. sp. seem to be endemic to North America, but more sampling is needed to confirm these assumptions.

The phylogeny of Catathelasma in this study, inferred from ITS, LSU and TEF1 data, revealed that this genus contains two major clades: the /subalpinum clade and the /imperiale clade (Fig. 1). Within the /subalpinum clade, the North American species C. sp. (labelled as C. ventricosum or C. imperiale in GenBank) is sister to the clade jointly formed by Asian species C. laorentou and C. subalpinum.

Catathelasma evanescens is considered rare and has seldom been collected since it was described. Although efforts have been made to include C. evanescens in the present study by sequencing the specimens identified as C. evanescens (DBG 6151 and DBG 21378), molecular analysis revealed that they are conspecific with C. singeri. To better understand the species relationships and historical biogeography of this genus, recollecting specimens from the type locality of C. evanescens and C. ventricosum is necessary. Further studies that include these two North American species and the undescribed species C. sp. (Fig. 1) in a multigene phylogeny are needed.


We are very grateful to Drs Melissa Islam and Andrew Wilson of Denver Botanic Gardens (DBG) and to Dr. Timothy Y. James from the Herbarium of University of Michigan (MICH) for sending us specimens on loan. We thank Drs. Q. Cai, T. Guo, L. H. Han, X. B. Liu, J. Qin, L. P. Tang and X. T. Zhu, all from KIB, for providing us with valuable specimens. We thank Dr. R. Henrik Nilsson, Dr. Hirotoshi Sato and two anonymous reviewers for their professional reviews and valuable suggestions on earlier versions of this manuscript. Thanks are also due to Dr. Zhu L. Yang from KIB for improving an earlier version of the manuscript. This study was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Nos. 31461143031, 31670024 and 31872619) and the Biodiversity Survey and Assessment Project of the Ministry of Ecology and Environment, China (No. 2019HJ2096001006).


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