A Japanese Mycologist and a Poison Fire Coral Fungus - Observation of the Week, 1/25/21

Our Observation of the Week is this Poison Fire Coral fungus (火炎茸), seen in Japan by @hirabe1216!

Hiroshi Abe has been fascinated with fungi since he was a child and ended up studying mycology in both college and graduate school. His focus is on the ecology of ectomycorrhizal symbiosis, “the strong relationship between tree species and mushroom forming fungi,” he explains. “I was really surprised to know tree species cannot survive without fungal symbionts in the natural environment.”

Since graduating, he has been studying fungi of nearby Komiya Park in Tokyo as a first step towards urban ecosystem conservation. 

I think even recording species with a short description and DNA sequence data will help us understand and evaluate the local natural environment. In addition, due to the fact that taxonomy of fungi is now just developing, undescribed species are found even in the local park!

Poison fire coral fungus, however, is a well known species, and Hiroshi (along with his friend Takahiko Koizumi) came across this specimen during their first exploration into Komiya Park. “This species is well-known as a lethal mushroom in Japan,” he tells me, “[and its] Japanese name is ‘火炎茸(kaen-take)’ meaning ‘flame fungus.’

It is also said that the number of [poison fire coral fungi] is increasing as oak wilt disease expands in Japan. Oak wilt disease, which triggers mass mortality of Quercus trees nurturing birds, insects and ectomycorrhizal fungi etc., is now one of the serious problems in urban ecosystems in Japan. In fact, dead Quercus trees attacked by the disease are increasing in Komiya Park.

Hiroshi (above) uses iNat to record and share his fungus explorations, look for observations made by others, and get ID help from the iNat community. “iNaturalist,” he says, “is the great first step of citizen-science!!”

(Some quotes have been lightly edited for clarity.)

- Poison fire coral fungus (also known as Podostroma cornu-damae) has devastating effects if ingested, you can read more here [PDF] if you’re interested.

- Once known mainly eastern Asia, it has been found as far a south as Australia. There’s even an iNat observation of one there.

- And because why not, here’s an electronic instrumental dance song named after this mushroom.

Posted by tiwane tiwane, January 25, 2021 23:03


Thank you Hiroshi, for a great image of a very interesting fungus!

Posted by susanhewitt 8 months ago (Flag)

How cool! I see you just joined earlier this month, @hirabe1216. Welcome to iNaturalist! It's great to have more mycologists and observations from Japan.

Posted by carrieseltzer 8 months ago (Flag)


Posted by gabymeyer 8 months ago (Flag)


Posted by michael64 8 months ago (Flag)

It really does look like a fire coral! So wonderful, thank you for sharing!

Posted by lisa_bennett 8 months ago (Flag)

Thank you very much for comments! I will continue observations and share myco-flora in Japan.

Posted by hirabe1216 8 months ago (Flag)

So beautiful :) keep up the awesome work

Posted by imlichentoday 8 months ago (Flag)

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