Cordyceps /ˈkɔːrdɪsɛps/ 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.[2] The generic name Cordyceps is derived from the Greek word κορδύλη kordýlē, meaning "club", and the Latin word caput, meaning "head".

Cordyceps militaris
Scientific classification

Fr. (1818)
Type species
Cordyceps militaris
(L.) Fr. (1818)
  • Cordyceps acridophila
  • Cordyceps albocitrina
  • Cordyceps amoene -rosea
  • Cordyceps ampullacea
  • Cordyceps bifusispora
  • Cordyceps blackwelliae
  • Cordyceps brasiliensis
  • Cordyceps cateniannulata
  • Cordyceps cateniobliqua
  • Cordyceps chiangdaoensis
  • Cordyceps cicadae
  • Cordyceps coccidioperitheciata
  • Cordyceps coleopterorum
  • Cordyceps confragosa
  • Cordyceps cuncunae
  • Cordyceps cylindrica
  • Cordyceps farinosa
  • Cordyceps fratricida
  • Cordyceps fumosorosea
  • Cordyceps ghanensis
  • Cordyceps grylli
  • Cordyceps guangdongensis
  • Cordyceps gunnii
    • Cordyceps gunnii var. minor
  • Cordyceps hepialidicola
  • Cordyceps hesleri
  • Cordyceps imagamiana
  • Cordyceps isarioides
  • Cordyceps javanica
  • Cordyceps kirkii
  • Cordyceps koreana
  • Cordyceps kurijimeansis
  • Cordyceps kyushuensis
  • Cordyceps lepidopterorum
  • Cordyceps locusticola
  • Cordyceps memorabilis
  • Cordyceps militaris
  • Cordyceps morakotii
  • Cordyceps nakazawai
  • Cordyceps nidus
  • Cordyceps ninchukispora
  • Cordyceps ningxiaensis
  • Cordyceps nirtolii
  • Cordyceps ochraceostromata
  • Cordyceps pleuricapitata
  • Cordyceps polyarthra
  • Cordyceps poprawskii
  • Cordyceps pruinosa
  • Cordyceps pseudonelumboides
  • Cordyceps rosea
  • Cordyceps roseostromata
  • Cordyceps scarabaeucika
  • Cordyceps spegazzinii
  • Cordyceps sphingum
  • Cordyceps submilitaris
  • Cordyceps taishanensis
  • Cordyceps takaomontana
  • Cordyceps tenuipes

The genus has a worldwide distribution and most of the approximately 400 species[3] 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:[4]

  • Cordyceps subgen. Cordyceps Fr. 1818[5]
  • Cordyceps subgen. Cordylia Tul. & C. Tul. 1865[6]

Cordyceps subgen. Epichloe was at one time a subgenus, but is currently regarded as a separate genus, Epichloë.[4]

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".[7] 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.


Polysaccharide components and cordycepin are under basic research and have been isolated from C. militaris.[8][9]

Traditional Chinese medicine

Cordyceps are used extensively in traditional Chinese medicine.[10]


  1. "Cordyceps" (HTML). NCBI taxonomy. Bethesda, MD: National Center for Biotechnology Information. Retrieved 4 September 2019.
  2. Nikoh, N (April 2000). "Interkingdom host jumping underground: phylogenetic analysis of entomoparasitic fungi of the genus cordyceps". Mol Biol Evol. 17 (4): 629–38. doi:10.1093/oxfordjournals.molbev.a026341. PMID 10742053.
  3. Sung, Gi-Ho; Nigel L. Hywel-Jones; Jae-Mo Sung; J. Jennifer Luangsa-ard; Bhushan Shrestha & Joseph W. Spatafora (2007). "Phylogenetic classification of Cordyceps and the clavicipitaceous fungi". Stud Mycol. 57 (1): 5–59. doi:10.3114/sim.2007.57.01. PMC 2104736. PMID 18490993.
  4. "Cordyceps" (html). Index Fungorum. Retrieved 4 September 2019.
  5. Elias Magnus Fries, Observ. mycol. (Havniae) 2: 316 (cancellans) (1818)
  6. Edmond Tulasne & Charles Tulasne, Select. fung. carpol. (Paris) 3: 20 (1865)
  7. Holliday, John; Cleaver, Matt (2008). "Medicinal Value of the Caterpillar Fungi Species of the Genus Cordyceps (Fr.) Link (Ascomycetes). A Review" (PDF). International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms. New York: Begell House. 10 (3): 219–234. doi:10.1615/IntJMedMushr.v10.i3.30. ISSN 1521-9437. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-02-22. Retrieved 2009-03-10.
  8. Khan, MA; Tania, M; Zhang, D; Chen, H (May 2010). "Cordyceps Mushroom: A Potent Anticancer Nutraceutical" (PDF). The Open Nutraceuticals Journal. 3: 179–183. doi:10.2174/1876396001003010179. Archived from the original (PDF) on 18 March 2012.
  9. Nakamura, K; Shinozuka, K; Yoshikawa, N (2015). "Anticancer and antimetastatic effects of cordycepin, an active component of Cordyceps sinensis". Journal of Pharmacological Sciences. 127 (1): 53–6. doi:10.1016/j.jphs.2014.09.001. PMID 25704018.
  10. Yue, K; Ye, M; Zhou, Z; Sun, W; Lin, X (April 2013). "The genus Cordyceps: a chemical and pharmacological review". The Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology. 65 (4): 474–93. doi:10.1111/j.2042-7158.2012.01601.x. PMID 23488776.

Further reading

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