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Desert Truffles of the African Kalahari: Ecology, Ethnomycology, and Taxonomy


Desert Truffles of the African Kalahari: Ecology, Ethnomycology, and Taxonomy. The Khoisan people of the Kalahari Desert have used truffles for centuries. The extreme conditions in which desert truffles grow means that they fruit only sporadically when adequate and properly distributed rainfall occurs, and then only where suitable soil and mycorrhizal hosts occur. Truffles are hunted in the Kalahari by men and women; they look for cracks in the soil, often humped, caused by expansion of the truffles, which are then extracted with hands or digging sticks. The truffles are eaten raw or cooked (boiled, roasted over fire, or buried in hot ashes). Commercial harvest of Kalahari truffles has increased in the last decade and the quantities harvested have been observed to be declining where livestock have been concentrated.

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These studies were supported in part by the U.S. Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station, Forestry Science Laboratory, Corvallis, Oregon. Magda Nel of the University of Pretoria granted permission to use the photo of Kalaharituber pfeilii by G. C. A van der Westhuizen and Albert Eicker. Professors Keto Mshigeni, Wilfrid Haacke of the University of Namibia, and Dean Elenimo Khonga of the Botswana College of Agriculture shared valuable insights on the traditions, hunting and native names of Kalahari truffles. Professor David Modise of the University of South Africa provided information and reviewed the manuscript on very short notice. Hein Botha shared his personal knowledge of Kalahari truffles with us, and Rudi Botha provided the photograph of Hendrik Josop holding an unusually large specimen. The South African Department of Agriculture permitted use of Fig. 3.

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Correspondence to James M. Trappe.

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Trappe, J.M., Claridge, A.W., Arora, D. et al. Desert Truffles of the African Kalahari: Ecology, Ethnomycology, and Taxonomy. Econ Bot 62, 521–529 (2008).

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Key Words

  • Hypogeous fungi
  • mycorrhizae
  • Ascomycota
  • Pezizales
  • Pezizaceae
  • Kalaharituber
  • Eremiomyces
  • Mattirolomyces