Cordyceps // is a genus of ascomycete fungi (sac fungi) that includes about 400 species. Most Cordyceps species are endoparasitoids, parasitic mainly on insects and other arthropods (they are thus entomopathogenic fungi); a few are parasitic on other fungi. The generic name Cordyceps is derived from the Greek word κορδύλη kordýlē, meaning "club", and the Latin word caput, meaning "head".
(L.) Fr. (1818)
The genus has a worldwide distribution and most of the approximately 400 species that have been described are from Asia (notably Nepal, China, Japan, Bhutan, Korea, Vietnam, and Thailand). Cordyceps species are particularly abundant and diverse in humid temperate and tropical forests.
There are two recognized subgenera:
Cordyceps subgen. Epichloe was at one time a subgenus, but is currently regarded as a separate genus, Epichloë.
C. sinensis was shown in 2007 by nuclear DNA sampling to be unrelated to most of the rest of the members of the genus; as a result it was renamed Ophiocordyceps sinensis and placed in a new family, the Ophiocordycipitaceae, as was "Cordyceps unilateralis". Other species previously included in the genus Cordyceps have now been placed in the genus Tolypocladium.
Cordyceps and Metacordyceps spp. are now thought to be the teleomorphs of a number of anamorphic, entomopathogenic fungus "genera" such as: Beauveria (Cordyceps bassiana), Lecanicillium, Metarhizium and Nomuraea.
When a Cordyceps fungus attacks a host, the mycelium invades and eventually replaces the host tissue, while the elongated fruit body (ascocarp) may be cylindrical, branched, or of complex shape. The ascocarp bears many small, flask-shaped perithecia containing asci. These, in turn, contain thread-like ascospores, which usually break into fragments and are presumably infective.
Traditional Chinese medicine
Cordyceps are used extensively in traditional Chinese medicine.
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