Skip to main content

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

Abstract

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.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5

Literature Cited

  • Alcocks, J. P. H. 1953. Veld Types of South Africa. Union of South Africa Department of Agriculture Botanical Survey Memoir 28:1–192.

    Google Scholar 

  • Alsheikh, A. M. 1994. Taxonomy and Mycorrhizal Ecology of the Desert Truffles in the Genus Terfezia. Ph.D. dissertation, Department of Botany and Plant Pathology, Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon.

  • ——— and J. M. Trappe, 1983. Desert Truffles: The Genus Tirmania. Transactions of the British Mycological Society 81:83–90.

    Google Scholar 

  • Awamah, M. S. 1981. The Response of Helianthemum salicifolium and H. ledifolium to Infection by the Desert Truffle Terfezia boudieri. Mushroom Science 11:843–853.

    Google Scholar 

  • ——— and A. Alsheikh, 1979. Laboratory and Field Study of Four Kinds of Truffle (Kamah), Terfezia and Tirmania Species, for Cultivation. Mushroom Science 10:507–517.

    Google Scholar 

  • ——— and A. Alsheikh. 1980. Features and Analysis of Spore Germination in the Brown Kamè (Terfezia claveryi). Mycologia 72:494–499.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bayly, I. A. E. 1999. Review of How Indigenous People Managed for Water in Desert Regions of Australia. Journal of the Royal Society of Western Australia 82:17–25.

    Google Scholar 

  • Beaton, G. W. and G. Weste. 1982. Australian Hypogaean Ascomycetes. Transactions of the British Mycological Society 79:455–468.

    Google Scholar 

  • Ceruti, A. 1960. Iconographiae mycologicae ab. J. Bresadolae suppl. 2. Trento, Italy.

  • Chatin, A. 1984. La truffe. Editions Slatkine, Genèva, Paris. Reprint of a work first published by Baillière, Paris, in 1892.

  • Doidge, E. M. 1950. The South African Fungi and Lichens to the End of 1945. Bothalia 5:1094.

    Google Scholar 

  • Ferdman, Y., S. Aviram, N. Roth-Bejerano, J. M. Trappe, and V. Kagan-Zur. 2005. Phylogenetic studies of Terfezia pfeilii and Choiromyces echinulatus (Pezizales) Support New Genera for Southern African Truffles: Kalaharituber and Eremiomyces. Mycological Research 109:237–245.

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Kagan-Zur, V., J. Kuang, S. Tabak, F. W. Taylor, and N. Roth-Bejerano. 1999. Potential Verification of a Host Plant for the Desert Truffle Terfezia pfeilii by Molecular Methods. Mycological Research 103:1270–1274.

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Kalotas, A. P. 1996. Aboriginal Knowledge of Fungi. Pages 269–295 in K. Mallet and C. Grgurinovic, eds., Fungi of Australia Vol. 1B, Introduction—Fungi in the Environment. Australian Biological Resources Study, CSIRO Publishing, Canberra, Australia.

  • Leffers, A. 2003. Gemsbok Bean & Kalahari Truffle. Gamsberg Macmillan, Windhoek, Namibia.

    Google Scholar 

  • Leistner, O. A. 1967. The Plant Ecology of the Southern Kalahari. Republic of South Africa Botanical Research Institute Botanical Survey Memoir 38:1–172.

    Google Scholar 

  • Levy, L., Jr. 2008. Meerkat Cuisine. http://www.meerkats.net/info.htm#Meerkat%20cuisine (15 April 2008).

  • Marasas, W. F. O. and J. M. Trappe. 1973. Notes on Southern African Tuberales. Bothalia 11:139–141.

    Google Scholar 

  • Marloth, R. 1913. Eumycetes. The Flora of South Africa 1 (11):20–34.

    Google Scholar 

  • Mattirolo, O. 1922. Osservazioni supra due ipogea della Cirenaica e considerazione intorno ai generi Tirmania e Terfezia. Memoria Reale Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei Ser. 5, 13:544–568.

    Google Scholar 

  • McLennan, E. I. 1961. Australian Tuberales. Proceedings of the Royal Society of Victoria 74:111–117.

    Google Scholar 

  • Mills, M. G. L. 1990. Kalahari Hyenas. The Blackburn Press, Caldwell, New Jersey.

    Google Scholar 

  • Mshigeni, K. E. 2001. The Cost of Scientific and Technological Ignorance with Special Reference to Africa’s Rich Biodiversity. University of Namibia, Windhoek, Namibia.

    Google Scholar 

  • ———, D. Mtango, A. Massele, Y. Mgonda, A. E. Lyamuya, M. Elineema, and S. T. Chang. 2005. Intriguing Biological Treasures More Precious than Gold: The Case of Tuberous Truffles, and Immunomodulating Ganoderma Mushrooms with Potential for HIV/AIDS Treatment. Discovery and Innovation 17:1–7.

    Google Scholar 

  • Murphy, A. 2007. Southern Africa. Lonely Planet Publications, London.

    Google Scholar 

  • Nutrition Information Center, University of Stellenbosch. 2008. Vegetable Exchanges – Moderate Potassium (120–200 mg). webhost.sun.ac.za/nicus/RenalList.htm (15 April 2008).

  • Pagnol, J. 1973. La truffe. L’Imprimerie Aubanel, Avignon, France.

    Google Scholar 

  • Palmer, E. and N. Pitman. 1961. Trees of South Africa. A. A. Balkema, Cape Town, South Africa.

    Google Scholar 

  • Pole-Evans, I. B. 1918. Note on the Genus Terfezia, A Truffle from the Kalahari. Transactions of the Royal Society of South Africa 7:117–118.

    Google Scholar 

  • Rayss, T. 1959. Champignons hypogés dans la regions désertiques d’Israel. Pages 655–659 in Omagiu Lui Traian Savulescu, Academia Republicii Populare Romine, Bucharest, Romania.

  • Roth-Bejerano, N., Y.-F. Li, and V. Kagan-Zur. 2004. Homokaryotic and heterokaryotic hyphae in Terfezia. Antonie van Leeuwenhoek 85:165–168.

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Schoeman, A. 2008. A Feast of Fungi. http://www.holidaytravel.com.na/index.php?fArticleId=505 (14 April 2008).

  • Story, R. 1958. Some Plants Used by San in Obtaining Food and Water. Botanical Survey of South Africa Memoir 30:1–115.

    Google Scholar 

  • Tanaka, J. 1980. The San Hunter–Gatherers of the Kalahari: A Study in Ecological Anthropology. University of Tokyo Press, Tokyo.

    Google Scholar 

  • Taylor, F. W. and N. T. Parratt. 1995. The Potential of Non–Timber Forest Products of Botswana. The Sixth Conference of the Australasian Council on Tree and Nut Crops. http://www.newcrops.uq.edu.au/acotanc/papers/taylor.htm (11 June 2008). Lismore, NSW, Australia.

    Google Scholar 

  • ———, D. M. Thamage, N. Baker, N. Roth-Bejerano, and V. Kagan-Zur. 1995. Notes on the Kalahari Desert Truffle, Terfezia pfeilii. Mycological Research 99:874–878.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Thomas, E. M. 1974. The Harmless People. Alfred A. Knopf, New York.

    Google Scholar 

  • Trappe, J. M. 1990. Use of Truffles and False–Truffles around the World. Pages 19–30 in M. Bencivenga and B. Granetti, eds., Atti Secondo Congresso Internazionale sul Tartufo, Spoleto. Comunitá Montana dei Monti Martani e del Serano, Spoleto, Italy.

  • ——— and N. S. Weber. 2001. Desert Truffles: The Genus Carbomyces. Harvard Papers in Botany 6:209–214.

    Google Scholar 

  • ———, A. W. Claridge, D. L. Claridge, and L. Liddell. 2008. Desert Truffles of the Australian Outback: Ecology, Ethnomycology, and Taxonomy. Economic Botany 62(3).

  • ———, G. Kovacs, and A. W. Claridge. (n.d.). Comparative Taxonomy of Desert Truffles of the Australian Outback and African Kalahari. Australian Systematic Botany (in press).

  • Tswalu Kalahari Reserve News, 2008. Fungus mirabilis. http://www.tswalu.com/ViewNews.asp?ID=9 (15 April 2008).

  • Tulasne, L.-R., and C. Tulasne. 1851. Fungi hypogaei. Frederich Klincksieck, Paris.

Download references

Acknowledgements

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.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to James M. Trappe.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

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). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12231-008-9027-6

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s12231-008-9027-6

Key Words

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