Gomphus clavatus (Pig’s Feet)
- Similar Species
- Medicinal Info
Gomphus clavatus, commonly known as pig’s ears or the violet chanterelle, is an edible species of fungus in the genus Gomphus native to Eurasia and North America. The fruit body is vase- or fan-shaped with wavy edges to its rim, and grows up to 15–16 cm (6–6 1⁄4 in) wide and 17 cm (6 3⁄4 in) tall. The upper surface or cap is orangish-brown to lilac, while the lower spore-bearing surface, the hymenium, is covered in wrinkles and ridges rather than gills or pores, and is a distinctive purple color. Described by Jacob Christian Schäffer in 1774, G. clavatus has had several name changes and many alternative scientific names, having been classified in the genus Cantharellus (also called chanterelles), though it is not closely related to them.
Typically found in coniferous forests, G. clavatus is mycorrhizal, and is associated with tree species in a variety of coniferous genera, particularly spruces and firs. It is more common at elevations of greater than 2,000 ft (600 m), in moist, shady areas with plenty of leaf litter. Although widespread, G. clavatus has become rare in many parts of Europe and extinct in the British Isles.
The basidiocarps, or fruit bodies, of immature Gomphus clavatus are club-shaped and have one cap or pileus, but later spread out and have a so-called merismatoid appearance—several vase-shaped caps rising from a common stem. The fruit body is up to 15 cm (6 in) wide and 17 cm (6 3⁄4 in) tall, fan-shaped with wavy edges. The upper surfaces of the fruit bodies are covered with brown hyphae (microscopic filaments) that form small, distinct patches towards the margin, but combine to form a continuous felt-like fine-haired area, or tomentum, over the center of the cap. The color of the upper cap surface is orange-brown to violet, but fades to a lighter brown with age. The cap margins of older mushrooms can be quite ragged. The lower spore-bearing surface—the hymenium—is wrinkled, often with folds and pits, and violet to brown in color. The solid stem, which is continuous with the cap, is 0.8–3 cm (3⁄8–1 1⁄8 in) wide, 4–10 cm (1 5⁄8–3 7⁄8 in) tall, and covered with fine hairs that become coarser (hispid) towards the base. It is often compound, with several fruit bodies arising from the basal portion. Fruit bodies may bruise reddish-brown where handled. The flesh can be whitish-pink to lilac or cinnamon-buff. Thick under the center of the cap, it thins out towards the margins. It can be crunchy, though it is softer than that of the chanterelle. The taste and odor are mild. The spore print is yellow to orange-yellow.
The spores are elliptical, wrinkled or slightly warted, and 10–14 by 5–7.5 μm. They are non=amyloid, meaning they have a negative color reaction with the iodine in Melzer’s reagent. The spore-bearing structures, the basidia, are elongated or club-shaped, hyaline (glassy or translucent), and four-spored, with dimensions of 60–90 by 8.5–11.5 μm.G. clavatus does not contain cystidia, the sterile cells associated with basidia in many species. Clamp connections are present.
Growing on the ground, Gomphus clavatus mushrooms appear singly, in clusters or clumps, or even occasionally fairy rings. The species is typically found in coniferous forests, and with a preference for moist, shady areas with deep leaf litter, or rotten wood debris on the ground. It is equally common in older or younger stands of trees. Fruit bodies are easily missed because their colors blend with those of the forest floor. It is more common at elevations of greater than 2,000 ft (600 m). Gomphus clavatus has been reported as forming symbiotic (mycorrhizal) associations with a variety of trees.
Gomphus clavatus has been reported In North America, the fungus has been found across Canada, Mexico, and the United States, where it is abundant in the Pacific Northwest.
Gomphus crassipes, found in Spain and North America, can only be reliably distinguished from G. clavatus with the use of a microscope. Its basidiospores are generally longer (11–17 by 5.5–7 μm) and have a more finely wrinkled surface. Pseudocraterellus pseudoclavatus (formerly classified in Gomphus) is a lookalike species that grows under conifers in the central United States and westward, also differing on microscopic characters and reaction to potassium hydroxide. Turbinellus floccosus and T. kauffmanii are of similar shape but their caps are covered in scales. The edible blue chanterelle (Polyozellus multiplex) could be confused with G. clavatus, but has distinctive spores.
Gomphus clavatus is edible; it is rated as choice by some, while others find it tasteless. It has an earthy flavor and meaty texture that has been regarded as suiting red meat dishes. Like many edible fungi, consumption may cause gastrointestinal distress in susceptible individuals. The flesh becomes bitter with age, and older specimens may be infested with insects. Insect infestation is unlikely if the weather is cool. G. clavatus has been used for cooking for some time.
Extracts prepared from G. clavatus fruit bodies have a high antioxidant activity, and a high concentration of phenolic and flavonoid compounds. Phenolic compounds identified from the fungus include protocatechuic acid, gallic acid, gentisic acid, vanillic acid, syringic acid, cinnamic acid, caffeic acid, ferulic acid, and tannic acid.