Editors: Maria L. Gargano, Georgios I. Zervakis, Giuseppe Venturella

Pleurotus nebrodensis A Very Special Mushroom

eBook: US $49 Special Offer (PDF + Printed Copy): US $114
Printed Copy: US $90
Library License: US $196
ISBN: 978-1-60805-801-3 (Print)
ISBN: 978-1-60805-800-6 (Online)
Year of Publication: 2013
DOI: 10.2174/97816080580061130101

Introduction

First described by Giuseppe Inzenga in 1863 as “the most delicious mushroom of the Sicilian mycological flora”, Pleurotus nebrodensis remains today a prized species , especially in the Mediterranean. Pleurotus nebrodensis was sought after since ancient times as a delicious mushroom in the Madonie mountains of Sicily. Tourists and local people can appreciate the organoleptic qualities of the mushrooms in restaurants where delicious cuisine are prepared with raw or cooked mushrooms. However, its appearance and numbers are declining in nature and this species has been categorized as ‘CR’ (Critically Endangered) according to IUCN Red List Criteria. In situ conservation action for this fungus is being carried out thanks to rules issued by the Madonie Park administration prohibiting its collection as well as inoculation of roots of the associated plant C. ferulacea with grain mycelia of P. nebrodensis in the hope of increasing mushroom fructification in the wild. Ex situ conservation of P. nebrodensis has also started and involves cultivation of the mushroom in special farms in the hope of reducing collecting pressures on the species in the wild. Ex situ cultivation of P. nebrodensis also provides additional income for local farmers, who can offer a more economical product than that collected from the wild, and this in turn reduces pressure on the wild population.

This e-book is an excellent resource for amateur and professional mycologists for learning scientific information about the family Pleurotaceae with particular reference to the taxonomic group “Pleurotus on Apiaceae plants” and the “Pleurotus eryngii species-complex” and is also suitable for university students for useful insights in botany, microbiology, mycology, agronomy, and forestry.

Pleurotus Nebrodensis: A Very Special Mushroom also gives both general and specialized readers a glimpse into the selected history of mycology, folk traditions, preservation of biodiversity, sustainable development, information on mushroom cultivation techniques and alternative sources of income associated with this intriguing mushroom species.

Indexed in: Book Citation Index, Science Edition, BIOSIS Previews, EBSCO.

Preface

A progressive decrease in the levels of biodiversity within ecosystems characterizes the ongoing scenario for our planet.

Politicians, academics, networks, media and organizations dealing with the conservation of nature primarily directed their attention to cases of threatened animals and plants at risk of extinction. All these organisms have a strong impact on public opinion because of their physical size, notable presence and/or distribution.

It is therefore more difficult to raise the level of public attention to seemingly “lower” organisms such as fungi.

The problem that I encountered about twenty years ago when I started to study Pleurotus nebrodensis was: How a mushroom unknown to the vast majority of people could be put under the spotlight of public opinion?

Back in 1863, Giuseppe Inzenga had experienced a similar problem when he began to observe and describe a white Pleurotus mushroom, since he could not explain how “a species so easily distinguishable from the others would have missed the eye of skilled botanists of that time”.

Inzenga understood that the fungus could be a different species from those already described in literature and this was confirmed when Elias Fries provided his authoritative opinion.

After Inzenga’s death (1887) and up until 1995, no researcher could effectively deal with the species described by Inzenga under the binomial Agaricus nebrodensis Nobis [current name Pleurotus nebrodensis (Inzenga) Quél.]. In the meantime, the nomenclatural status of this taxon has undergone various changes ranging between synonyms and placements in the rank of “variety” or “subspecies” of Pleurotus eryngii (DC.) Quél.

The efforts made in recent years by the undersigned and his collaborators to gather information useful for the preparation of a dossier to be submitted to IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) have delivered in the year 2005 a prestigious goal, i.e. the inclusion of P. nebrodensis in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species and the Top 50 Mediterranean Island Plants. The scientific community has spent much time before confirming that P. nebrodensis is a species at risk of extinction, while since 1600, the Sicilian population enjoyed the excellent organoleptic qualities of these mushrooms which gained a high commercial value.

Known locally as “fungo di basilisco”, derived from vernacular name of the plant on the roots of which the fungus is fruiting, P. nebrodensis is still today an important source of income particularly for the community of Madonie Mts (Northern Sicily).

Unfortunately, the overexploitation and the consequent excessive human pressure on the habitats of growth, stimulated by the high sale price of around 50 euro per kilo, led to a high risk of extinction for the fungus.

There are still some elements missing, in the long process of assembling the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle for the final construction of a “protection shield” for P. nebrodensis, such as a greater awareness of the value of this natural resource and more effective in situ and ex situ conservation actions.

Besides, there is also a need to improve the process of mushroom cultivation in order to allow the market to lower prices which would subsequently alleviate part of the human pressure exerted on natural habitats of P. nebrodensis growth.

This e-book is yet another opportunity to disseminate the history and the quality of Pleurotus nebrodensis to a wide range of readers in order to ensure that the original vision of Giuseppe Inzenga would result in an opportunity for future generations to adopt this beautiful mushroom and conserve its wild populations, while rural communities would benefit by obtaining an additional income from a natural resource in a sustainable manner.

Giuseppe Venturella
Department of Agricultural and Forest Science
Università di Palermo
viale delle Scienze 11
I-90128 Palermo
Italy

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