The collection of fungi currently housed in the mycological herbarium at North Carolina State University (NCSU) is taxonomically diverse and contains specimens from different ecological habitats largely from North Carolina, Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia. This collection was established in 1970 and is composed primarily of wood decay (~2900 specimens) and plant pathogenic fungi
(~3600 specimens), particularly those associated with species of woody plants found in forest ecosystems. The remaining specimens in the collection consist of mushrooms, jelly, rust, and smut fungi that are represented by approximately 2400 specimens.
While the herbarium at NCSU is relatively small in size (~8,000 specimens) and of recent history compared with many other herbaria, the specimens of fungi in this collection are of ecological, economic and evolutionary importance. For example, the herbarium serves as a repository for collections of wood decay fungi in the order Aphyllophorales (poroid and corticoid fungi) from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park as part of the National Science Foundation supported All Taxon Biodiversity Inventory project and from Nags Head Woods (see Special Collections for details).
Of notable significance, are the more than 100 collections of Discula destructiva, the causal agent of the dogwood anthracnose epidemic that occurred in the eastern US in the 1970’s and 1980’s. We also have more than 90 specimens of mainly wood decay fungi, from two sites within the longleaf pine ecosystem in North Carolina. This ecosystem has been reduced to about 2% of the area that it once occupied in North America. The herbarium has one of the largest collections (241 specimens) of powdery mildew fungi on woody plants in the southeastern US. Included in this collection are 46 specimens from oak that represent 16 different species of powdery mildew fungi and nine specimens on dogwood that represent the relatively rare sexual stage. There are also approximately 400 specimens in the collection that represent the first report of a fungus on a new plant host in the US and approximately 900 specimens that represent the first report of a fungus on a new plant host in North Carolina.
Collections at NCSU function as an important resource for the scientific community, students and the general public. North Carolina represents a geographically unique transitional area
that serves as the northern and southern limit for many species of animals, insects, and plants. Wood decay fungi, particularly neotropical and temperate species, also exhibit this pattern of distribution and occurrence. In our collection, we have specimens of wood decay fungi from North Carolina that represent the northernmost range of a southern temperate or neotropical species (Fomes faciatus), and the southernmost range of northern temperate species (Fomes fomentarius and Piptoporus betulinus) (Grand and Vernia, 2005). We developed a map of counties in the eastern US where Fomes fomentarius has been observed or collected (Figure 1). The data used to generate this map were compiled from more than eight herbaria. The counties shown in yellow represent collections in our herbaria that provide evidence of the occurrence of F. fomentarius based on our archived specimens, records and publications. The challenges involved in compiling these data to develop this figure illustrate the need for electronic access. Another interesting example from our collection is Cryptoporus volvatus, a species of poroid wood decay fungi where our knowledge of its range has been recently extended from the northern conifer forests into the southern pine forests in North Carolina (Grand and Vernia, 2003). Specimens in our collection have also allowed us to better understand the distribution and occurrence of three additional species of poroid wood decay fungi, Schizopora apacheriensis, S. flavipora, and S. paradoxa. These species are commonly found in the US, but were not previously reported in North Carolina (Gilbertson and Ryvarden, 1987). However, Grand and Vernia (2004) found them on 41 host species including 29 new fungus/host associations in North Carolina. All three species were found throughout the state and represent another documented example of where the ranges of species of wood decay fungi have been expanded.
With the increased availability of collection data via electronic access, this will greatly facilitate and streamline research on the distribution and occurrence of fungal species of ecological and economic importance. These and other unique species in our collection may provide a valuable source of material for understanding changes in the distribution and occurrence of fungal species as they relate to changes in habitat or climate and their potential impact(s) on the diversity of animals, insects, and plants.
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