Neolecta irregularis
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Fungi
Subkingdom: Dikarya
Phylum: Ascomycota
Subphylum: Taphrinomycotina
Class: Neolectomycetes
O.E. Erikss. & Winka 1997[1]
Order: Neolectales
Landvik, O.E. Erikss, Gargas & P. Gustaffs. 1993[2]
Family: Neolectaceae
Redhead 1977[3]
Genus: Neolecta
Speg. 1881
  • Neolecta flavovirescens
  • Neolecta irregularis (Irregular Earth Tongue)
  • Neolecta vitellina (=N. aurantiaca) (Egg-yellow Earth Tongue)

Neolecta is a genus of ascomycetous fungi that have fruiting bodies in the shape of unbranched to lobed bright yellowish, orangish to pale yellow-green colored, club-shaped, smooth, fleshy columns up to about 7 cm tall.[3][4] The species share the English designation "Earth tongues" along with some better-known fungi (e.g. Geoglossum, Microglossum) with a similar general form, but in fact they are only distantly related.

Neolecta is the only genus belonging to the family Neolectaceae, which is the only family belonging to the order Neolectales. Neolectales, in turn, is the only order belonging to the class Neolectomycetes, which belongs to the subdivision Taphrinomycotina of the Ascomycota.[5]

Neolecta is found in Asia, North America, Northern Europe and Argentina.[4] The species all live in association with trees, and at least one, N. vitellina, grows from rootlets of its host,[6] but it is not known whether the fungus is parasitic, saprotrophic, or mutualistic[4]. It is said to be edible.[3]

Neolecta does not have any close relatives. Phylogenetically, it weakly clusters with a bizarre group of basal Ascomycota[5] [7] including Taphrina, a dimorphic, half yeast, half filamentous genus parasitic on leaves, branches, and catkins, Schizosaccharomyces, a genus of fission yeasts (e.g. Schizosaccharomyces pombe), and Pneumocystis, a yeast-like genus of parasites in mammalian lungs. Neolecta fruitbodies consist of hyphae and a hymenium. The hymenium lacks paraphyses and the asci lack croziers, which makes the genus distinctive among other earth-tongues.[3][4] Neolecta vitellina forms masses of conidia by budding, hinting at the possibility it also produces a yeast state.[3] However, to date, the genus has been unculturable, suggesting it is either obligately parasitic or symbiotic. It provides important evidence for the evolutionary history of the Ascomycota and has been called a living fossil.[8]


  1. ^ Eriksson, O.E. & K. Winka (1997). "Supraordinal taxa of Ascomycota". Myconet 1: 1–16. 
  2. ^ Landvik, S., et al. (1993). "Relationships of the genus Neolecta (Neolectales ordo nov., Ascomycotina) inferred from 18S rDNA sequences". Syst. Ascom. 11: 114. 
  3. ^ a b c d e Redhead SA (1977). "The genus Neolecta (Neolectaceae fam. nov., Lecanorales, Ascomycetes) in Canada". Canad J Bot 55: 301–306. doi:10.1139/b77-041. 
  4. ^ a b c d Landvik S, Schumacher TK, Eriksson OE, Moss ST (2003). "Morphology and ultrastructure of Neolecta species". Mycol Res 107 (9): 1021–1031. doi:10.1017/S0953756203008219. 
  5. ^ a b Lutzoni et al.; Kauff, F.; Cox, C. J.; McLaughlin, D.; Celio, G.; Dentinger, B.; Padamsee, M.; Hibbett, D. et al. (2004). "Assembling the fungal tree of life: progress, classification, and evolution of subcellular traits". Amer J Bot 91: 1446–1480. doi:10.3732/ajb.91.10.1446. 
  6. ^ Redhead SA (1979). "Mycological observations: 1, on Cristulariella; 2, on Valdensinia; 3, on Neolecta". Mycologia (Mycological Society of America) 71 (6): 1248–1253. doi:10.2307/3759112. 
  7. ^ Landvik S (1996). "Neolecta, a fruit-body-producing genus of the basal ascomycetes, as shown by SSU and LSU rDNA sequences". Mycol Res 100 (2): 199–202. doi:10.1016/S0953-7562(96)80122-5. 
  8. ^ Landvik S, Eriksson E, Berbee ML (2001). "Neolecta—a fungal dinosaur? Evidence from β-tubulin amino acid sequences". Mycologia (Mycological Society of America) 93 (6): 1151–1163. doi:10.2307/3761675. 

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