Hypogeous fungi are those soil fungi which produce fruit-bodies partially or completely embedded in soil or humus. While the term “truffle” is sometimes used to refer to any of these, in the very strictest sense, “truffle” refers to those in the genus (group) Tuber which includes those that are prized eating. These are sometimes called “true truffles”, while the many other underground fruiting bodies are “false truffles”.
How many truffle species?
Globally, the number species of fungi currently classified as Tuber is around 160. New species are occasionally being found and genetic research changes past opinions, grouping or dividing existing species, variations, complexes and so on. Often there is not a consensus opinion. In Britain around 80 species of hypogeous fungi have been found, of these 13 are true truffles (Tuber). Four of these are considered edible though to our knowledge, only one is found and sold in this country (including by us). Several of these, and one additional species, are cultivated.
|Species||Wild in Britain?||Cultivated in Britain?|
|Summer truffle (Tuber aestivum)||Y||Y|
|Winter truffle (Tuber brumale)||Y|
|Smooth black truffle (Tuber macrosporum)||Y|
|Whitish truffle (Tuber borchii)||Y||Y|
|Périgord Truffle (Tuber melanosporum)||Y|
British Truffle Species
The 13 species of British truffles can be grouped. For each, information on its species is given to support identification. This includes their appearance and British distributions.
Determining the species of a truffle
Having evolved underground, truffles lack the distinctive features of mushrooms such as coloured caps, with many looking more like potatoes or clods of soil than mushrooms. Determining the species of a truffle requires examination of macroscopic characteristics (visible to the naked eye) and potentially, using a microscope to look at the truffle’s spores. You can read more on determining a truffle’s species.
Studying British Truffles
Much of our knowledge of the British truffle species and their distribution is down to the efforts of a small number of people. You can read about the phases of truffle study.