Elucidating “lucidum”: Distinguishing the diverse laccate Ganoderma species of the United States
Ganoderma is a large, diverse and globally-distributed genus in the Basidiomycota that includes species causing a white rot form of wood decay on a variety of tree species. For the past century, many studies of Ganoderma in North America and other regions of the world have used the name G. lucidum sensu lato for any laccate (shiny or varnished) Ganoderma species growing on hardwood trees or substrates. Molecular studies have established that G. lucidum sensu stricto (Curtis) Karst is native to Europe and some parts of China. To determine the species of the laccate Ganoderma that are present in the United States, we studied over 500 collections from recently collected samples and herbarium specimens from hardwoods, conifers, and monocots. A multilocus phylogeny using ITS, tef1α, rpb1 and rpb2 revealed three well-supported clades, similar to previously reported findings. From the U.S. collections, thirteen taxa representing twelve species were identified, including: G. curtisii, G. lucidum sensu stricto, G. martinicense, G. oregonense, G. polychromum, G. ravenelii, G. sessile, G. tsugae, G. tuberculosum, G. cf. weberianum, G. zonatum, and Tomophagus colossus (syn. G. colossus). The species G. meredithiae is synonymized with G. curtisii, and considered a physiological variant that specializes in decay of pines. The designation G. curtisii f.sp. meredithiae forma specialis nov. is proposed. Species such as G. curtisii and G. sessile, once considered as G. lucidum sensu lato, were found to be divergent from one another, and highly divergent from G. lucidum sensu stricto. Morphological characteristics such as context tissue color and features (e.g. melanoid bands), basidiospore shape and size, geographic location, and host preference were found to aid in species identification. Surprisingly, G. lucidum sensu stricto was found in the U.S., but only in geographically restricted areas of northern Utah and California. These collections appear to have resulted from the introduction of this species into the United States possibly from mushroom growers producing G. lucidum outdoors. Overall, this study clarifies the chaotic taxonomy of the laccate Ganoderma in the United States, and will help to remove ambiguities from future studies focusing on the North American species of laccate Ganoderma.