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LAST OF US. Intriguing World of Parasitic FunGI - Exploring the Cordycipitaceae Genus (cordyceps)

PART 1: Unveiling the Intriguing World of Parasitic Fungi - Exploring the Cordycipitaceae Genus

(This article has been written to educate our fellow viewers and customers on the species of mushroom that is an ingredient in some of our psilocybin magic mushroom microdose products which can be found here.)


In the vast and diverse kingdom of fungi, few groups captivate the imagination like the parasitic fungi. Among them, the Cordycipitaceae genus stands out as a fascinating example. These remarkable organisms exhibit extraordinary life cycles, infecting and manipulating their host organisms in mesmerizing ways. In this article, we will delve into the world of parasitic fungi, focusing on the Cordycipitaceae genus and exploring its unique characteristics and the various types within it.

Understanding Parasitic Fungi

Parasitic fungi are organisms that rely on other living organisms, known as hosts, to complete their life cycle. Unlike symbiotic fungi that form mutually beneficial relationships, parasitic fungi exploit and often harm their hosts for their own survival and reproduction. By infecting and manipulating their hosts, these fungi demonstrate intricate strategies that highlight the complexity and diversity of the fungal kingdom.

Introducing the Cordycipitaceae Genus

The Cordycipitaceae family encompasses a group of parasitic fungi characterized by their ability to infect and alter the behavior of their hosts. Formerly classified under the Cordyceps genus, the family was revised to include several distinct genera, each with its unique characteristics and host preferences.

Cordyceps militaris
Cordyceps Militaris
Cordyceps Militaris

Cordyceps militaris, the kind of Cordyceps we use in our microdose products, a well-known member of the Cordycipitaceae family, is renowned for its vibrant orange or reddish fruiting bodies. It primarily infects insects, such as caterpillars and beetles. Upon infection, the fungus gradually replaces the host's tissues, ultimately resulting in the emergence of the fruiting body from the host's remains.

Ophiocordyceps sinensis
Cordyceps Sinensis
Cordyceps Sinensis

Ophiocordyceps sinensis, also known as "Himalayan Viagra" or "Yarsagumba," is perhaps the most famous and commercially valuable species within the Cordycipitaceae family. It infects the larvae of ghost moths (Hepialidae) and develops within the alpine grasslands of the Tibetan Plateau and the Himalayas. Due to its rarity and unique growth requirements, Ophiocordyceps sinensis is highly prized but also endangered, leading to conservation concerns.

Ophiocordyceps unilateralis - THE LAST OF US FUNGI

Ophiocordyceps Unilateralis - The Last Of Us Fungi
Ophiocordyceps Unilateralis - The Last Of Us Fungi (image is fiction/from the show)

Ophiocordyceps unilateralis, commonly known as the "zombie ant fungus," is a remarkable species within the Cordycipitaceae family. It has recently been made famous in the HBO series "The Last Of Us". The show tells an apocolyptic story of how this specific fungus took over the world and humans. Causing them to become zombies. This is an actual real fungus that actually has the capabilities to do this. It already does it to ants! Luckily, in reality, us humans are a few steps ahead of this particular fungus! (For now...) Here's an overview of Ophiocordyceps unilateralis and its intriguing characteristics:

  1. Host and Behavior Manipulation: Ophiocordyceps unilateralis has a unique life cycle that involves infecting and manipulating ants. It primarily targets ants of the Camponotus genus. The fungus releases spores that land on an ant, infecting and penetrating its body. Once inside the ant, the fungus takes control of its behavior, directing it to leave its colony and ascend to an elevated location in the vegetation.

Ophiocordyceps Unilateralis - REAL image of an infected ant.
Ophiocordyceps Unilateralis - REAL image of an infected ant.

  1. Manipulated Behavior: Infected ants exhibit abnormal behavior due to the manipulation exerted by Ophiocordyceps unilateralis. They climb to a precise height and attach themselves to the underside of a leaf, where the environmental conditions are optimal for the fungus to grow. This behavior ensures that the ant remains in a suitable position for the fungus to complete its life cycle.

  2. Fungal Development: Within the ant's body, the fungus grows and consumes non-vital tissues, avoiding critical organs to keep the ant alive for as long as possible. Eventually, the fungus reaches a stage where it draws all the remaining nutrients from the ant, causing the ant's death. The fungus then emerges from the ant's body as a stalk-like fruiting body, known as a stroma.

  3. Spore Release and Infection Cycle: The mature stroma of Ophiocordyceps unilateralis produces spores, which are released into the surrounding environment. These spores can infect other ants and initiate the cycle anew. When ants come into contact with the spores, they can become infected, perpetuating the life cycle of the fungus.

  4. Ecological Significance: Ophiocordyceps unilateralis plays a fascinating role in forest ecosystems. By manipulating ant behavior, the fungus regulates ant populations and helps control their foraging activities. This, in turn, affects the distribution of nutrients and the composition of the forest floor, influencing the overall ecology of the area.

  5. Scientific Research: Ophiocordyceps unilateralis has attracted significant scientific attention due to its intriguing behavior manipulation and its potential applications. Researchers study the mechanisms by which the fungus controls ant behavior, offering insights into neurobiology and the interactions between fungi and insects. Additionally, the compounds produced by Ophiocordyceps unilateralis have shown promise in various fields, including medicine and agriculture, leading to ongoing research into their potential benefits.

Ophiocordyceps unilateralis is a captivating species within the Cordycipitaceae family that infects and manipulates ants, leading to altered behavior and ultimately the death of the host. This phenomenon highlights the intricate and complex interactions between fungi and their insect hosts. The study of Ophiocordyceps unilateralis not only expands our understanding of fungal biology but also presents opportunities for scientific advancements in various disciplines.

Cordyceps unilateralis

Cordyceps unilateralis is a fascinating species known for its manipulation of ants. It infects the ants' bodies, gradually taking control of their behavior. Infected ants are compelled to leave their colonies and climb to elevated positions, where the fungus can grow and release spores to infect new hosts. This phenomenon is often referred to as the "zombie ant" behavior, showcasing the intricate strategies employed by parasitic fungi.

Cordyceps cicadae

Cordyceps cicadae primarily targets cicadas, infecting their bodies and manipulating their behavior. The fungus grows inside the cicada, eventually bursting forth from its exoskeleton to release spores. The life cycle and behavior-altering abilities of Cordyceps cicadae make it a captivating subject of scientific research.

Cordyceps capitata

Cordyceps capitata, also known as Cordyceps gunnii, is a species that infects various insect larvae. It has been found in different regions, including North America and Europe. Cordyceps capitata demonstrates the diversity within the Cordycipitaceae genus, showcasing its adaptability to different environments and host species.

Cordyceps dipterigena

Cordyceps dipterigena is a species of Cordycipitaceae that infects dipteran insects, such as flies and mosquitoes. It exhibits a fascinating life cycle, penetrating the host insect's body and eventually emerging as a fruiting body. Cordyceps dipterigena demonstrates the wide range of host preferences within the Cordycipitaceae genus.

Cordyceps robertsii

Cordyceps robertsii is a species of Cordycipitaceae that infects various types of insects, including beetles and ants. It is known for its ability to produce a wide range of bioactive compounds, making it a subject of interest for medicinal and pharmaceutical research.

Cordyceps brongniartii

Cordyceps brongniartii is a species that primarily targets caterpillars. It infects the caterpillar's body, leading to the development of elongated fruiting bodies. Cordyceps brongniartii showcases the diversity of form and structure within the Cordycipitaceae family.

Cordyceps tuberculata

Cordyceps tuberculata is a species within the Cordycipitaceae family that has its own unique characteristics and attributes. Here's some information about Cordyceps tuberculata:

  1. Habitat and Distribution: Cordyceps tuberculata is primarily found in the alpine regions of the Himalayas, specifically in Nepal and Tibet. It thrives in high-altitude environments with cold temperatures and a suitable host population.

  2. Host Preference: This species of Cordyceps predominantly infects the larvae of insects, specifically caterpillars. Upon infection, the fungus invades the host's body, eventually leading to the formation of a fruiting body.

  3. Appearance and Fruiting Body: Cordyceps tuberculata exhibits a distinctive appearance. The fruiting body, also known as the stroma, emerges from the host's body and has a tubular or elongated shape. It typically has a dark color, ranging from brown to black, and can reach several centimeters in length.

  4. Traditional Uses: In traditional Tibetan and Chinese medicine, Cordyceps tuberculata has been used for its potential health benefits. It is believed to possess properties that support lung health, improve energy, and enhance vitality. It has been traditionally used as a tonic to boost overall well-being.

  5. Research and Health Benefits: Scientific research on Cordyceps tuberculata is relatively limited compared to other species within the Cordycipitaceae family. However, like other Cordyceps species, it is believed to contain bioactive compounds that may contribute to its potential health benefits. These may include antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and immunomodulatory properties. It is important to note that further studies are needed to validate these potential benefits and explore the full range of therapeutic properties specific to Cordyceps tuberculata.

  6. Conservation Considerations: Cordyceps tuberculata, like many other Cordyceps species, is of ecological and conservation concern. The harvesting and trade of Cordyceps fungi have raised sustainability issues due to overexploitation and habitat destruction. Responsible and sustainable practices should be encouraged to ensure the long-term preservation of these unique species and their habitats.

Cordyceps tuberculata is a species within the Cordycipitaceae family that thrives in high-altitude regions of the Himalayas. It infects the larvae of insects, particularly caterpillars, and forms a distinctive fruiting body. While it has been traditionally used for its potential health benefits, further scientific research is needed to fully understand its therapeutic properties. Conservation efforts should be prioritized to protect the natural habitats of Cordyceps tuberculata and maintain the ecological balance of these delicate ecosystems.


The Cordycipitaceae genus represents a captivating group of parasitic fungi that mesmerize with their ability to infect and manipulate host organisms. Each species within this genus exhibits unique characteristics and preferences for specific hosts. From the vibrant Cordyceps militaris to the infamous Ophiocordyceps sinensis, these fungi showcase the intricacy and adaptability of the natural world.

As we continue to explore the diverse world of parasitic fungi, the Cordycipitaceae genus remains a subject of scientific fascination. The study of these organisms not only unveils the complexities of their life cycles but also offers insights into the potential applications of their bioactive compounds in various fields, including medicine and agriculture.

Note: While the Cordycipitaceae genus and its various species are of scientific interest, it's important to approach them with care and respect for the environment. Some species may be rare or endangered, and their collection should be done responsibly, adhering to conservation guidelines and regulations.

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